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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008
    Species Corridor

    I'm not well-travelled in mainland Europe, so it was pleasing to instantly recognise the site of the cover photograph of Parking Non-Stop's album Species Corridor. It's a station on the Prague Metro, one place I have been, whose deep chambers are all lined with these distinctive sci-fi metallic mouldings, which makes waiting for a tube train in the Czech capital feel like standing inside a giant Dalek.

    The Czech Metro designers have created a different colour code for each of its retro-futuristic stations, and my suspicion that these cover shots were taken at Jiřího z Poděbrad was confirmed by pictures on a Prague Metro website.

    I suspected Jiřího z Poděbrad because that's the title of one of the album tracks. It starts with a station announcement in a collage of sound sourced from that Prague subway as well as others at La Defense, Paris, and Potzdamer Platz U-bahn, Berlin, plus bells recorded in Cathedral Square, Haarlem, a street cleaner in Amsterdam, further ambience from Berlin's Kollwitzplatz and Brussels' Jaques Brel museum and wooden percussion recorded at the Ghost Garden & Dog's Graveyard, Portmeirion, Gwynedd.

    In keeping with the other tracks on Species Corridor Jiřího z Poděbrad is a melding of field and studio recordings, an experimental soundscape part europop and part industrial minimalism, belonging to 'a body of work that explores the sonic geography of a wider Europe within the context of north Wales, where [Parking Non-Stop, ie Zoë Skoulding, Alan Holmes and Dewi Evans] live'.

    The band website states that 'Parking Non-Stop is a psychogeographical experiment in combining soundscape and field recordings with spoken word and music,' and this would affirm David Stubbs' note in The Wire, that 'it's one of those cases where it helps to know the origins of the sound.'

    What does the listener do with the knowledge that Jiřího z Poděbrad station runs beneath a large square which is named after a fifteenth century Bohemian king Jiří z Poděbrad, or George of Podebrady, leader of the Hussites, enemy of Rome, whose conquest of Prague in 1448 sparked a civil war? The music caused this listener to recall the feeling of standing on a futuristic-looking platform with a keenly heightened sense of possibility of time travel, inter-spatial journeying, and as the sound track builds into a series of sharp eerie rail track squeals and the rumbles and blasts of warm violent air preceding the arrival of an oncoming train I take this as the sound of King George's 9000-strong army, marching from Kutná Hora in the east to take possession of Prague with little opposition.

    I am thrilled by the words which Parking Non-Stop lyricist Zoë Skoulding writes (in The New Bridge from Remains of a Future City),
    the lines of the landscape
    run through me to somewhere else
    But I also then recall the arrival of the Metro train on the platform that day, a piece of the antique Russian rolling stock which until quite recently shuddered around the bowels of the city, quite out of place beside the space-age platform, its banality shattering the illusion of space-time trickery, and helping me recall part of the Parking Non-Stop mission statement:
    They aim to achieve a distinctive north Wales sound that is based in discovering new spatial and temporal resonances: this is not a musical identity built from a mythical past, but an engagement with the sonic possibilities of the mines, quarries and rusting machinery in the landscape as it is today - a decaying rural-industrial environment rich with unexpected noise.
    "Ukončete prosím výstup a nástup, dveře se zavírají" (Please finish exiting and boarding the train, the doors are closing.) Is that exiting, or exciting?