Underground

Second piece about Samantha Whates' Waiting Rooms album for the wonderful people at Elsewhere.

It’s hard to believe Samantha ever recorded in here. Sneaked in after hours by game TFL staff and adrenalin. A four piece band, recording engineer and filmmaker. Laden. A full kit. Ad hoc power supply daisychained up the steps from the opposite platform office. The bash of drums reverberating around this tiny glass and brick quadrangle in the dead of night and rain, as empty ghost trains howled past the station windows throughout. The first time music has been recorded live on the network, and perhaps not completely legally so lets hurry past the specifics.

In her own estimation it’s not her strongest take. She can hear the cold and the wet and the hour in her vocal. For me it’s everything this project is and more. It’s hard. It’s brave. It’s exposing. It’s romantic as hell sure but it’s real. And cold. And stinks of people, both real and imagined.

This is a haunting, harrowing recording in an oddly beautiful, austere, Art Deco station on the very periphery of the city limits. Suburbia. Commuter belt. A twin hulled concrete space ship perched precarious atop the perimeter. Ballardian dreams of hope and regret. The constant rumble of those empty commuter trains full of broken dreams is audible, rolling in and out throughout.

Recording this album has been an adventure, inhabiting and reinterpreting sometime public spaces in a totally honest and genuine way. On arrival here there was no power supply and the damp stench of it. Frankly it’s a horrible place. And it still stinks of piss. But that’s London, and that's real life. Embued with stark lines, crittal windows and the utopian ideasm of the 30’s, joined by a filthy dimplex heater maybe 50 years later, it’s grilled cover charred and warped. Someone’s twitter handle scrawled on with a marker pen perhaps 30 years later still.

How many people have sat right here? How many countless mornings of thought, apprehension, worry, elation have people sat and lived on these municipal wooden benches. No one seems to use these waiting rooms anymore. Are we too busy. Are the trains too frequent. Do we ever just stop to think, to wait. Does any body have time, or inclination, patience. We poke and prod our lives away, cloying away the time. Averting our gaze. Avoiding the inevitable.

Perhaps it’s me they’re avoiding. The dishevelled guy taking photos of heaters, riding the rails like a zone 6 hobo. It’s nice out here. The carriages are mostly empty, the windows wide angle panorama of rolling fields and woods call to me, as I scan for birds and big cats, idly transecting the m25 like the psychogeographer of cliche.