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Last Train To Manchester Corudory Institute's Modern Classicism

Last Train To Manchester

Corudory Institute's Modern Classicism

by John Robinson,
first published: January, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

Building on basslines, randomly generated and improvised beats, the majority of the album is melodic experimentation...

Take The Train To Manchester (LP)

The Corduroy Institute is two experimental musicians from San Diego: S.A. Morin & W. Ruiz: on the one hand enigmatic in appearance, on the other enormously open about their musical process and influences: their track-by-track account of this album, which we are also sharing with you, goes into microscopic detail, down to individual adjustments to snare hits. They’ve produced numerous albums since 2018 and this album has been mixed over four years. The result is a curious, highly engaging mix of the esoteric and the accessible, with influences and call-backs as layered as the music itself. There is synchronicity in much of what they have done: the album title was a phrase which the writers misinterpreted as meaning “get on with it!”, kept when they realised that “Manchester” is a word used to mean corduroy in parts of Europe, as the city was a production hub for the fabric.

Building on basslines, randomly generated and improvised beats, the majority of the album is melodic experimentation. The opening and title track uses train mimicking beats with a bassline clearly influenced by Joy Division, with synth notes flanged and delayed to sound reminiscent of Eno’s Another Green World era. The following track A Girl Called Philosophy – a lost Associates title if ever there was one – uses cut up lyrics, randomly selected and arranged as all the lyrics on the album are, with a dry, uninflected vocal delivery, leading to occasionally sound like late period Scott Walker: “When we crossed the border, it was like two continents had vanished...” with the modern classicism that evokes.

Say Something Gentle is more upbeat, but the squalling delayed synth chords in the background add sinister urgency to those Bowie-esque cut up lyrics –“Charm the true unloved colours of the Machine”. Uncirculated Knowledge of the Universe adds prettier tones to its depraved sounding knowledge using the d-beam attachment for a Roland synth: controlling sounds using hand movements. This sonic palette is maintained for An Intimate Tension, improvised guitar with feedback over loops and bass. 

They Don’t Even Know is an echoing, propulsive piece showing their interest in Neu!, artrock in general and described as some form of “Neoclassical Darkwave” in their notes. No One Ever Knows follows with a shift in sound, acoustic guitar melded with random sampled voices, adding more variety to the sounds at work here. Our Former Places of Worship (Luminous Chaos) starts with that classic sound of an orchestral stab: there’s a clear influence from 1980’s Bill Nelson in the title and the sound here, reminding me of his soundtracks for the film Dream Demon and the tv series Brond. The closing track You Always Loved Everything, with its Cure-like bass and gothic sound, suggest a different direction again. 

On their Bandcamp page Corduroy Institute follow through the conceit of their name, with links to Programs, Students, Faculty/Staff and Campus. Spiritually, they have a lot in common with the hauntological acts of the GhostBox label such as Belbury Poly, The Focus Group, and The Advisory Circle, but their more system laden methodology puts them into a more experimental bracket again. Nevertheless the accessibility of their output is clear and although their influences are heavily worn, the near-scientific rigour with which these anglophile technicians pursue their ends is laudable. I’ll be listening to more of their work, and you can get a taste of the creative world they inhabit with the track-by-track they have provided.

Available now on Bandcamp→

John Robinson

Based in Scunthorpe, England. A writer and reviewer, working as a Computer Science and Media Lecturer and Educator. Sometimes accused of being a music writer called John Robinson, which is not helped by being a music writer called John Robinson. @thranjax
about John Robinson »»

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