[sic] Magazine

Sunshine Playroom – The Old Railway Track

Certain albums which land in my lap from time to time almost defy categorisation, and this would certainly be one such example.  It’s the recently-released debut album from Greg Wye, who performs as Sunshine Playroom, and provides us with a sprawling 16-track trip down memory lane.

After an initial listen, I maybe had more questions than answers, but the overriding word which comes to mind following several more listens is evocative.  There’s a sense of casting us back to anytime between the sixties and the eighties – to childhood TV programmes, to old weather reports, to sounds of chickens clucking in nearby fields during walks along the river, and as the title suggests, the sound of trains and the familiar voices from the likes of Blue Peter (“Here’s another signal box. Can you tell which way the we’ll go?”) during “The Ghosts Of Trains Passed”, with its nice wordplay in the title.

The overall theme will appeal to fans of epic45, or E.L. Heath, particularly their more nostalgia-based outings, and the idea of fusing instrumentation with voice samples & field sounds.  Musically it sits somewhere between folk and electronica, with “Small Copper (Steam Daydream)” evoking memories of Tomorrow’s World and the (then-)future of train travel.  Elsewhere, during “Halcyon Daze”, we find ourselves taking a hazy, psychedelic trip.

The voice introducing the weather at the beginning of “A Summer Forecast” will be familiar to many people of a certain age, particularly those who recall the summer of 1976.  This friendly character announced the arrival of a warm day, at a time when we still reported temperatures in Fahrenheit.

“Pause For A Comma” makes me sit upright for several reasons.  The first is that it bears all the hallmarks of a lost Blue Nile instrumental classic, and secondly, it transports me to English class in the early-eighties where I can vividly hear the teacher saying, “And what do we do when we see a comma in a paragraph?”, and someone raising their hand and saying, “Pause, Miss”.  These lifelong lessons help shape us in so many ways.

This is an album which feels like it opens a door to the past.  The pastoral music, aligned with a slightly hazy production, transports us back to a time where our most important memories were learning drawing, singing along with songs on Top Of The Pops, performing magic tricks, and consuming as much music as we could – but also school trips, especially to see a Shakespeare play performed outdoors in Shropshire, running through fields with friends, camping in the summertime, canoeing and walks through forests – these were also a huge part of that process of growing up experience.

When did we all stop talking like the narrator in “The Beekeeper”?  I love the slightly posh English accent which used to be prevalent on TV and radio.  Regional accents just weren’t a thing back in the eighties.

All in all, this is a beautifully presented collection of music, which transports us back to a time where everything just seemed so much easier.  The ‘real world’ of power cuts, 3-day weeks, expensive mortgages, and political uncertainty in the seventies and eighties may have been the problems our parents were wrestling with, but watching steam trains approaching from an old bridge and filling our pockets full of conkers were the most pressing things which we were maybe concerned about.

I look forward to whichever journey Sunshine Playroom takes us on next.

~The Old Railway Track is out now on limited-edition CD via Persephonic Audio.~