Cars & Trains consists of exactly one member: Tom Filepp. For ten years the Portland, Oregon-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter has been releasing albums that creatively fuse elements of folk music with electronic sounds. On October 6th Filepp will release his latest effort as Cars & Trains on the venerable New Haven-based indie label Fake Four, Inc. Much like the busy painting of midtown Manhattan that serves as its cover art, Fictions feels simultaneously zoomed in and distant, taking from things both large and small, personal and political. Filepp shares stories of yearning, cycles of creation and destruction, and sympathetic laments in a world of post-truth.
Fictions, recorded and mixed by Filepp at his Portland home studio, was equally inspired by the distant reverb sounds of electric era Miles Davis and early Brian Eno. Thematically Filepp explores many themes common to his past music, while weaving in subtle commentary on current events and inspirations from wide ranging influences like dystopian David Bowie lyrics and Jorge Luis Borges. The name of the album itself is lifted from Borges’ story collection Ficciones. As a record, Fictions is a fitting follow-up to the 2015 Cars & Trains instrumental album Dust, as well as Filepp’s electronic sludge-pop record Particles, under the project True Deceiver.
Some of the dark timbre and heavy echo from True Deceiver sneak their way into the corridors of Fictions, alongside analog synths, guitars, distorted bass, and Filepp’s trademark toy instruments. Hidden around the corner from subtle glitches and organic electronic drums, you can find bits of piano—marking the first time Filepp has recorded piano on a record. One of the sonic threads that holds the whole together is a near constant of lush, fluttering strings, contributed by Kyleen King (Swansea) on violin and Jessie Dettwiler (Alameda, Lenore) on cello. Additional percussion and vocals provided by Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta (There Is No Mountain) add extra depth. Fictions also sneaks in a reworked version of the song “Every Morning” that originally appeared on Factor’s 2010 album Lawson Graham, remade as a slow-builder, buoyed by delicate strings and brooding vocals.
Alongside Filepp’s recurring themes of nature and decay are allusions to the nautical and astronomical, creating an expansive world for the record’s eight songs to exist in. This is a dense record, with something new to be discovered upon each listen.
Today Glide Magazine is premiering the tune “Scientific Method”. Beginning with soft acoustic strumming, Tom Filepp’s layered vocals drift in along with a subtle but effective beat from a drum machine. The collection of sounds slowly build before Filepp cuts in with a wavy, somber chorus. It is a soft song that captures Filepp’s sharp sensibilities as a lyricist and a producer.
Tom Filepp describes the tune in his own words:
“‘Scientific Method’ is about building perspective, putting our own personal experiences in the context of the scale of the universe. It’s about going out on a dark, starry night away from the lights of the city, and as you sit in the dark and watch, more and more stars come into focus, until finally a large swath of the Milky Way paints the sky. It makes me feel connected to something beautiful and gigantic, and helps me reset my frame of reference.”
Cars & Trains releases Fictions via Fake Four Inc. on October 6th. For more music and info visit Cars & Trains on Facebook.