In the mid-nineties, when these albums came out, I was
mostly listening to Hip-Hop, and catching up with those
old Public Enemy records I should have listened to when
I was heavily into indie rock. I was barely aware of
this group in those days. Bit of a shame, because these
albums mostly sound very fresh in 2003, so I wonder
what I wouldve made of them around 1995. Well
I started out with Dead
Cities, made curious mostly by some musician
who listed it in his desert island discs. He said of
it: Six years Ive been carrying this thing
with me and I still havent gone to the bottom
of it. I like some depth so I decided to track
This might be the ultimate headphone music. The music
is very layered and intricate. New elements are introduced
at alarming speeds. The overall mood is dark but there
are some sun rays here and there.
Over the course of the album youll find layered
big beat, dark twisted cyberfunk, soothing jazzzy guitar
work, classical pieces, wah wah guitars, heavy metal,
and maybe god is in there somewhere too. Its really
insanely diverse and theres not a wack track to
be found. A wonderful achievement.
FSOl recently dismissed this album as macho bullshit,
and started following a more proggy, hippylike route,
which leaves me craving for more macho bullshit.
Soon after listening to Dead Cities I rushed to get
Lifeforms and ISDN.
Lifeforms is reckoned
to be something of an ambient classic. As a whole its
the most quiet of these three albums. Theres too
much going on for it to be really ambient. And its
all the better for it.
There are eight songs on the first disk and eleven on
the second but I look at each half as one long song.
If youve got a bit of fantasy you can really get
into it and conjure all kinds of images in your mind.
One long stream of organic sonic textures, shifting
beats and haunting ambient sound. And enough darkness
to separate it from kitschy new age music. Bit of a
grower, but ultimately rewarding.
ISDN is a live album
of sorts, consisting of recordings of performances FSOL
broadcasted out of their north London studio to radiostations
around the globe. The only moment you realize its
live is during the audience chatter at the beginning
of the record. It does sound a bit looser than their
other offerings. It contains some killer tunes like
The Far Out Son of Lung with its ultra-heavy
3/3 stomp, Slider which sounds like war in the
middle east, but funky, and the slowly building Dirty
Shadows. Like Dead Cities, not a weak track in sight.
I read a review that summed it up quite nicely:
It's thick and rich, like eating a bowl of aural
And like another reviewer said, in a way that my limited
knowledge of the english language wont let me:
Part of the fun of FSOL records, for me, is just
letting myself be buffeted by the insane profusion of
sonic manipulations; their music has the one-frame-at-a-time
sense of attention to detail of a Pixar film, and a
similar pervasive gleam of hyper-reality too flawless
to be genuine.
Right on. Time to find out what the future sounded like
in the nineties.
pick some favorites:
Dead Skin Cells. Slowed down breakbeat
mixed with gorgeous piano and ethereal sounds.
The Far Out Son of Lung. Manages
to sound sad, menacing, melancholic and futuristic at
the same time.
Dead Cities. The soundtrack to your