3. Future Sound of London – ‘Lifeforms’

Posted: March 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Album Review, Ambient, Ambient Techno | Tags: | No Comments »

FSOL - Lifeforms 2

Future Sound of London * Lifeforms * 1994 * Astralwerks / Virgin

Future Sound of London‘s second album was another quantum leap after their acid house debut Accelerator. It sounded as if they had blown up their samplers and sequencers with dynamite and then meticulously retooled their techno circuits with needles and thread. The result was a futuristic masterpiece that is both unsettling and strangely intoxicating. From the tentacled breakbeat ride ‘Cascade’ to the soaring hawk flight of the title track, Lifeforms explored a haunting fusion of Nature and Technology.

Years after its release, in his book Generation EcstasySimon Reynolds dismissed FSOL’s magnum opus as self-indulgent prog slop, akin to Yes‘s Tales of a Topographic Ocean — he argued that the best electronic music followed in the tradition of hardcore punk. Like Reynolds, many DJs and fans were also disappointed because FSOL’s new direction was worlds away from the rhythmic nirvana of their breakout anthem ‘Papua New Guinea.’ Not one track on the double album was a convincing dance number.

Instead, Lifeforms “combined a sense of queasy, dystopian bleakness with moments of sharply exquisite beauty,” critic Tim Barr wrote. FSOL’s grand statement was not ‘prog rock’ reincarnated, as Reynolds charged. It was too weird for that. Rather it was a culturally dissonant exercise in surgical sonic mayhem.

Beyond concepts, it was album highlights ‘Among Myselves,’ ‘Omnipresence’ and ‘Room 208′ that marked FSOL’s audio journey as a revelatory experience. The astonishing ‘Among Myselves’ pulsed with a heartbeat rhythm, bittersweet melodies climaxing with a distorted horn warbling like some disembodied waterbird. ‘Omnipresence’ and ‘Room 208′ were more city than wilderness. The latter rolled to a sliding groove, calling to mind a night drive through Babylon, its shimmering synth stepping like Harry Faltermeyer‘s ‘Axel F’ from another planet.

As repeated listens to Lifeforms demonstrate, Future Sound of London didn’t turn their noses up at the dance floor, they’d simply moved sideways with a confidence rarely shared by their peers. And what they crafted as a result, sublimating dance floor dynamics into an acid raincloud, still never seizes to amaze.

Years later, Lifeforms remains a touchstone for many electronica fans. And rightly so. It’s lonely but angelic, fleeting yet timeless, always bringing new insights to life.

1. Cascade
2. Ill Flower
3. Flak
4. Bird Wings
5. Dead Skin Cells
6. Lifeforms
7. Eggshell
8. Among Myselves

1. Domain
2. Spineless Jelly
3. Interstat
4. Vertical Pig
5. Cerebral
6. Life Form Ends
7. Vit
8. Omnipresence
9. Room 208
10. Elaborate Burn
11. Little Brother

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