The right album can have a particularly good resonance when travelling on your own through an airport terminal; capturing the transience, the discord, the people watching and being watched. Brian Eno’s seminal album Music For Airports never represented this experience for me. The current arrangement of The Black Dog collective share my dissatisfaction, this album is the product of their time spent in airports on tour, using both field recordings and production made in-situ to create a narrative of the airport experience.

I spend way too much time in airports now my girlfriend lives in Dublin, often in an early morning stupor trying to make it back to Edinburgh for work at 9am on a Monday morning. Perhaps inevitably, I’m usually flying Ryanair which brings its own special brand of chaos.

The album starts with M1 which in my terms, is the number 35 bus on its meandering route to the airport. I’ve too much Aberdonian in me to fork out for the express link and the taking the long route never bothered me much, a chance to collect my thoughts. This drifting anticipation characterises the track. As you reach Terminal EMA you are greeted with the low grumble of the mass of mechanical ventilation and a piece of hymnal synth evoking the church-like terminal structure. DISinformation Desk may be a reflection of bypassing by online check-in, as this is a surprisingly calm and rhythmic interpretation of queuing. Passport Control retains this eerie calmness, with ominous overtones. The lingering fear you left your scissors, liquids over 50ml or some dregs of weed from the trip you took to Amsterdam six years ago in your bag somewhere. The atmosphere is heightened by a constant scanning high-pitched interference.

The intensity subtly builds through Wait Behind This Line and Empty Seat Calculation, usually a high point of stress levels, focussed around the collective mutterings of disgruntled Ryanair passengers who have started to queue obviously way too early. Empty Seat Calculation is one of the few tracks you could take out of the context of the album and enjoy as a track in its own right, opening with an anxious ambience before a sumptuous climax at the midpoint, developing into a beautiful bass purr and skipping beat pattern.


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The second half of the album becomes slightly more beat orientated without ever fully stepping into The Black Dog’s more dancefloor friendly persona.

Strip Light Hate sounds remarkably like strip light hatred should sound. Delay 9 has an almost comical piano section that cries wistfully of resignation and despair. I can only imagine some more rage should appear here somewhere, at least the ‘jovial’ banter of a stag party or two. It all feels surprisingly contained. This slightly psychotic view of delays is further enhanced by Sleep Deprivation 1 & 2, which communicates the conversely intense but drifting nature of insomnia. The album closes on the floating Business Car Park 9, a title that I can’t imagine will be repeated often. Early morning sunlight, tired light-headedness; and the comforting relief of home, duvets and tea.

Airports are divisive. For some they are a portal to holiday destinations and the excitement that brings, for others a weary daily routine. They are at once exhilarating modern design and engineering, but guilty of huge energy consumption and global warming. They are a point of connection, a mingling of the masses; and a manifestation of the social extremes associated with Capitalism. Now in our media-frenzied post-9/11 society they have come to represent something entirely more threatening.

The Black Dog’s approach is highly intuitive, representing inner emotion rather than either Eno’s utopian vision or the general hubbub of the airport itself. It focusses on the simmering tension between the participants. Musically, it could have done to break free of some of the restraint in places, it remains slightly ‘perfect’ in it’s presentation. But this is an immersive thesis in modern air travel, all shiny finishes with something more sinister lurking below the veneer.

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