Station Songs is the third full length release from multi-instrumentalist and composer, Hans-Jurgen Fuchs, although he has been around for much longer, recording previously with his wife, Ines who also appears on this release playing keyboards having rediscovered her enjoyment of musical performance.
The concept is a simple one, the nine songs chart six different travellers in a railway station from their own viewpoint and from that of an interested observer (the eponymous Invisible Man),the vocals being ably shared between Baggi Buchmann and Michael Waslilewski. It explores the themes of transience, love, futility, alienation in an atmospheric art-rock setting, tending towards the pastoral, wistful pop-oriented end of the spectrum, allowing the listener to draw her own conclusions from the alternative viewpoints expressed. Fuchs has the luxury of a day job, he teaches and writes and produces musicals for teenagers and his experience in this regard shines through in his ability to establish a character, setting and atmosphere almost effortlessly. A recent student of Max Richter this piece sees Fuchs exploring ways of developing a narrative flow and establishing motifs within a minimalist setting. While this comes in general at the expense of avant-garde experimentation and heavier elements of a rock ensemble, there is one influence which is ever present, that of Tony Banks, whose signature keyboard tones are faithfully reproduced, particularly in the extended opening track The Invisible Man, and its later counterpart Sleepwalking Man a faithful hat-tip to a master. Throughout the album Fuchs is keen to take the opportunity to explore extended instrumental passages as a means of developing the narrative sketched in by his characters, weaving a skilful pattern of story-telling, always engaging and drawing the listener in to the theatrical world of the station.
As someone who has spent perhaps more time than is good for them passing through railway stations and wondering about the fellow travellers, I have great admiration for this work which demands to be treated as a unity rather than separate tracks. It is an engaging, spellbinding metaphor which represents Fuchs' most progressive work to date and is to be applauded. It is to be hoped that Fuchs are able to find an opportunity to perform this impressive piece in a live context. It is hugely enjoyable and its dramatic potential demands interaction with an audience.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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