The Balky Mule - The Length Of The Rail


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The Length Of The Rail, released in 2009, is the first length album by The Balky Mule. 
The Balky Mule is the alias of Sam Jones, who since the mid-90's has been a key figure in Bristol's vibrant DIY and experimental music scene, playing alongside his brother Matt in both Crescent and Movietone, as well as collaborating with Flying Saucer Attack, Minotaur Shock, HeadfallThird Eye Foundation, and many more, as well as teaming up with My Two Toms in the surf-pop collision The Call In Six. Whilst also active as The Balky Mule throughout this time, Sam's home-recorded material (almost entirely instrumental) had been confined to just one self-released album (an eponymous debut in a small edition on Sam and Matt's Little Waves label in 2000), small runs of CDRs pressed on request and tapes swapped amongst friends, plus a handful of remixes (for Pram and Vase) and tracks for compilations. 
Self-recorded either side of a 2006 move from the UK to Australia, The Length of the Rail is a beautifully balanced, intelligent and captivating album that sounds like little else. Idiosyncratic and enchanting, it is a fully coherent, organic mix of acoustic and electric instruments and neat electronic detail, it marked the start of a more focused, significant period of activity for The Balky Mule. 
Created over a period of 5 years, most of the songs here grew out of a library of existing short sound-snippets Sam built up from experimenting with old boot sale-find keyboards, analogue synths and scavenged electronic kit. Aside from brief contribution's from Peter Emptage (bass / drums on 'Range') and Naoto Kawate (announcements on 'Jisaboke'), the entire album was written, played, recorded and mixed by Sam alone. The recorded results soon began to sound more like songs in need of words. And the words are uniquely brilliant. 
Around a recurring theme of (people / places / ways of life in) transit, Sam identifies the main strands that the lyrics follow as rooted in fantasy and daydream, as on the opener 'Dust Bath Birds': "I had been thinking about how a lot of information I absorb gets mixed up into an internal idea of things, and the song came out of me liking miniature trains, reading about micro-nations and breakaway states, and world events seeming fantastical in relation to daily local life, and my comprehension of these things being pretty much an internal story made up to explain them. I wanted 'The Length Of The Rail' to be the title-track as it sums up a main theme in the LP, a really everyday situation: waiting for a train, daydreaming - the simultaneous distraction from your situation and insight into it. Songs like 'We Sometimes Write', 'Glass Boat' and 'Jisaboke' contemplate past situations, missed friends or places, the point when things settle in my mind enough to get some perspective." 
Sam's vocal is unmistakably English, its grain and tone recalling The Kinks' Ray Davies, whilst lyrically it's close to Syd Barrett's everyday references. Like Crescent and Movietone, there's a very tactile, weathered, home-baked feel to the music and a similarly grounded lyrical impressionism. Yet it's both musically more electronic, and quite a bit more upbeat and more humorous. 



  1. Dust Bird Baths 
  2. Before Too Long 
  3. Jisaboke 
  4. A Moth Like A Woodchip 
  5. Blinking 
  6. Wireless 
  7. Chalk 
  8. The Length Of The Rail 
  9. Range 
  10. Illuminated Numbers 
  11. Paper Crane 
  12. Instead 
  13. We Sometimes Write 
  14. Glass Boat 
  15. Tell Me Something Sweet 




see also:
Crescent - Resin Pockets   LP | CD 
Movietone - Movietone   2LP 
Movietone - The Sand And The Stars   LP 
Movietone - The Blossom Filled Streets   LP | CD 
Movietone - Live At The Cube Cinema   7" 
Movietone - Peel Sessions   LP | CD 
Headfall - Stars Don't Shine To Noise   LP 



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