Clive Holden Trains of Winnipeg

Any Weakerthans fans who picks up a copy of Trains of Winnipeg based on the cover billing of John K. Samson and Jason Tait are bound to be a little confounded. The disc is a collection of poems and short essays by Winnipeg artist Clive Holden, set over train noises and a series of scores written and performed by Tait, Samson and fellow 'Peg musician Christine Fellows. There's little collaboration between the trio, though, so the soundtracks to Holden's words play out in three very distinct styles: Tait issues a series of tape-loop oriented works; Fellows stays close to the piano for pieces ranging from ambient to pastoral; and Samson turns in some straightforward guitar tracks that sound as though they could be rough sketches of Weakerthans rockers. Of the three, Tait flexes his creative muscle the most, pulling a variety of tricks out of his multi-instrumentalist bag and coming away with some seriously innovative and compelling material. But the main focus of the package, of course, is Holden's image-laden and often intensely personal prose. Holden deserves credit for baring his soul (or that of his narrator, at least) to the extent that he does, however, his litany of childhood minutiae and graphic recollections of violent deaths he's witnessed gets a little taxing and doesn't exactly beg for repeat listening. Even on the rare occasions when Holden slips out of the first person he still manages to talk about himself, his experiences and his impressions. The experience is akin to sharing a table with some self-indulgent soul who refuses to stop talking and who talks only about himself. Fortunately for the talented and extremely descriptive writer, most of what he has to offer is interesting enough for just about anyone to take something away from it. (Endearing)