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The Catenary Wires debut video for captivating new single ‘Face on the Rail line’

Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey have been setting standards for a long time now. So long, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine how the landscape of indie music might have turned out without them. In 1986, they were among the founder members of Talulah Gosh; anorak indiepop flagbearers whose legacy made a mockery of the fickle music press’ scorn for hairslides and cutesiness. Their tiny discography and machismo-less ethos would go on to help inspire the Riot Grrrl movement, while their next band Heavenly signed to K Records, collaborated with Calvin Johnson and toured with the likes of Bratmobile. Years later, The Hold Steady wrote a song about them, but by that point their core members had already filtered out into new bands: first Marine Research, then Tender Trap. All their records are vital, marrying ramalama ‘60s pop with the energy of punk and a melodiousness that’s all their own.

These days, Amelia and Rob remain busy – over the past year, they’ve released music with ambient project The Drift and twee ‘supergroup’ Swansea Sound, and now they’re returning to a project they’ve been working on since 2014. The Catenary Wires began as a duo before eventually expanding into their current five-piece lineup, pushing a sparse acoustic sound into widescreen pop. They’re about to release their third album Birling Gap via US label Shelflife and their own Skep Wax imprint, with that title referencing the cliffs that look out across the English Channel. The album itself looks inward, examining the country’s nostalgia and problematic self-identity alongside warmer themes like romance in middle age – an endlessly fascinating perspective from longstanding indie heroes who just can’t bring themselves to do anything other than write and perform.

While we’re on the subject, here’s the album’s first single, ‘Your Face on the Rail Line’. It’s an utterly captivating piece of luscious folk-pop, drenched in harmony and an addictive melancholy that gets under your skin long before the first refrain of ‘don’t lose your way’ makes an appearance. A far cry from the rambunctiousness of their early career, it’s nonetheless the sort of song you’ll want to stick on repeat before surrendering to its charms and falling into it completely.

As the band themselves explain:

“‘Face on the Rail Line’ is set in a world where virtual connection is increasingly replacing physical connection. But where, all too often, the signal is unreliable.  

“It’s a love song at heart. The ‘face on the rail line’ is one of those icons on location apps – in this case an app tracking someone you desperately want to see. The icon inches its way along the line on the screen, but then disappears as phone reception is lost.

“When we first played the song to the rest of the band, everyone started singing harmonies. It was impulsive, and very moving. We’ve tried to capture that feeling in the recording.

“The video was made by Rob and Amelia. It’s a kind of collage: quite abstract and mostly about shapes and textures. But there are phones and rail lines, and if you look closely, you can see Birling Gap in the background!”

‘Birling Gap’ is released via Shelflife and Skep Wax on 5th June.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.