- The Future Sound of London
The Future Sound of London
FSOL band member Garry Cobain at the 2009 Gogolfest in Kiev, Ukraine
Background information Also known as see below Origin Manchester, England, UK Genres Electronic music Occupations Composers
Years active 1988–present Labels Jumpin' & Pumpin'
Future Sound of London Recordings
Electronic Brain Violence
Associated acts See Aliases Website www.futuresoundoflondon.com Members Garry ("Gaz") Cobain
The Future Sound of London (often abbreviated to FSOL) is a prolific British electronic music band composed of Garry Cobain (sometimes styled as Gaz Cobain) and Brian Dougans. The duo are often credited with pushing the boundaries of electronic music experimentation and of pioneering a new era of dance music. Although often labelled as ambient, Cobain and Dougans usually resist being typecast into any one particular genre. Their work covers most areas of electronic music, such as ambient techno, house music, trip-hop, ambient dub, acid techno and often involves extreme experimentation; for example they have, since the turn of the millennium, experimented with psychedelic rock under their Amorphous Androgynous alias. In addition to music composition, their interests have covered a number of areas including film and video, 2D and 3D computer graphics, animation in making almost all their own videos for their singles, radio broadcasting and creating their own electronic devices for sound making. They have released works under numerous aliases.
The artists have been fairly enigmatic in the past but have become more candid with their fanbase in recent years with social websites like Myspace, Youtube, their forum and many interviews in which Cobain almost always speaks for the group.
- 1 History
- 2 Independence
- 3 Aliases
- 4 Discography
- 5 Chart history
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans met in the mid 1980s while studying electronics at university in Manchester, England. Dougans had already been making electronic music for some time, working between Glasgow and Manchester, when they first began working in various local clubs. In 1988, Dougans embarked on a project for the Stakker graphics company. The result was Stakker Humanoid. Cobain contributed to the accompanying album. A video was also produced.
In the following three years the pair produced music under a variety of aliases, releasing a plethora of singles and EPs, including the successful bleep techno singles "Q" and "Metropolis", some of which would end up on the duo's first compilation album "Earthbeat" in 1992. "Metropolis" was also very influential in the house scene.
In 1991 they released their first album, Accelerator, which was followed by their seminal breakthrough ambient-dub track "Papua New Guinea", featuring a looping Lisa Gerrard vocal sample from Dead Can Dance's 'Dawn Of The Iconoclast' and a bassline from Meat Beat Manifesto's 'Radio Babylon'. The track has made several (British) "Best songs ever" polls and track specific accolades. Accelerator won praise for its unique sound and atmosphere, and contained atmospheric links between tracks which would later form the unique sound of the band. In 1992, Virgin Records were looking for electronic bands and, after "Papua New Guinea"'s chart success, quickly signed them, giving them free rein to experiment.
With their newfound contract they immediately began to play with more ambient music, resulting in the "Tales of Ephidrina" album of 1993, the first album to be released under the Amorphous Androgynous alias; this was well received by press and marked distinct shift from the more techno driven Accelerator, retaining some dance beats, but focussing more on texture, mood and sound, most famously on the popular track "Mountain Goat". The album was adventurously released on Quigley, the band's own short-lived offshoot of Virgin. At this time, the band had begun experimenting with radio performance, broadcasting now legendary three hour radio shows to Manchester's Kiss FM from their studio.
Lifeforms, ambience and the ISDN tour
"Cascade", released as a single in 1993, introduced the commercial music world to the new FSOL sound. Despite its length, clocking in at nearly forty minutes and stretched over six parts, the track made the UK top 30, and previewed what was to come. In 1994, they released Lifeforms to critical acclaim. The album featured unconventional use of percussion interspersed with ambient segments. The eponymous single from the album featured Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins on vocals. The album itself featured epic, ambient soundscapes, with tracks flowing from one to the next with no pauses in between. Throughout the record, familiar motifs and samples repeated themselves, sitting alongside tropical birdsong, rainfall, wind and an array of other exotic sounds, lending the album a natural, organic feel, backed up by the environmental landscapes that filled the artwork booklet. The album was also a top 10 hit on the UK album chart. Cobain has said that around this time that journalists would come to talk to them and one of the first things they would ask would be if they liked Brian Eno (whom they cite as an influence), to which they would laugh and say that they were about looking forward, not to the past. It was, to them, very much a new work rather than just another Eno-type ambient album.
“ We wanted to release a very immersive, mind-blowing piece of music that was long and would deeply drench you in it...Lifeforms was redefining 'classical ambient electronic experimental' — that was the phrase we used. - Cobain on Lifeforms ”
That year, they released the limited edition album ISDN, which featured live broadcasts they had made over ISDN lines to various radio stations worldwide, The Kitchen, an avant-garde performance space in New York and several appearances on the late John Peel's celebrated BBC radio Sessions shows, to promote Lifeforms. These shows marked the evolution of the Kiss FM shows of 1992 and 1993, moving away from DJ sets and into ambient soundscapes, with previously released material performed alongside unheard tracks. One live performance to BBC Radio 1 featured Robert Fripp performing alongside the band. The released album's tone was darker and more rhythmic than Lifeforms. Cobain stated that with ISDN they had wanted to achieve something epic and grand but no matter how much technological or personal support they had (and they had everything they could have possibly wanted) they never got to truly do what they envisioned; he admits to wanting too much at this time, even though the album was successful; the 90s, for Cobain in particular, were a time of frustration and feelings of not being able to do what they wanted to even though the technology at the time did not fit their ideas. The following year, the album was re-released with expanded artwork, a slightly altered tracklist, as an unlimited pressing.
The 1995 edition of John Peel Sessions featured three entirely new tracks, which took the breakbeats and chaotic sampling of ISDN away from their previous lush synthscapes and toward a new, more contemporary sound. In 1996, they released Dead Cities, which expanded upon these early demos. The new material was a mix of ambient textures and dance music. The lead single, "My Kingdom", introduced the sound, with a video featuring shots of London, and a sound suggesting a dystopian city. The album also featured the band's first collaboration with composer Max Richter, which included the big beat track "We Have Explosive", released in 1997; it was used on the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation soundtrack, and (before the single release) in 1996 on the video game wipE'out" 2097, along with the track "Landmass", which they wrote especially for "2097" and wipE'out". FSOL contributed to the WipEout Fusion soundtrack as well. "We Have Explosive" was the second single from the album, and the band's highest charting single (beating "My Kingdom" by one spot to number 12), and over the course of its five-part extended version included hints of funk, something which would be heard again when the band returned many years later.
The album was promoted by what the band described as "the fuck rock'n'roll tour" via ISDN, lasting several months and gaining much media attention by being the first band to do a world tour without leaving their studio. While 1994's tour had focused on creating soundscapes and unreleased material, the 1996 and 1997 shows were more conventional, each offering a different take on the Dead Cities experience, blending then-current tracks with occasional exclusive pieces of the time. However, the final few performances jettisoned this material for tracks from a series of unreleased sessions, containing more live sounding material, including considerable use of guitar and percussion. These "1997 sessions" were highly sought after by fans, with some tracks forming the basis of the band's psychedelic projects of the following decade, while others appeared on the From The Archives series.
New millennium, new sound
After a four year hiatus, and rumours of mental illness which turned out to be nothing more than exaggeration of Cobain's mercury poisoning from fillings in his teeth, the pair returned in 2002 with "The Isness", a record heavily influenced by 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and released under their alias Amorphous Androgynous. It was preceded by Papua New Guinea Translations, a mini album which contained a mixture of remixes of FSOL's track as well as new material from The Isness sessions. The album received mixed press due to the drastic change in sound which was inspired by Cobain's and Dougan's (separate) travels to India and immersion in spiritualism, nevertheless the majority was positive with Muzik magazine offering the album a 6/5 mark and dubbing it "...a white beam of light from heaven..." and other British publications such as The Times, The Guardian and MOJO praising the album and the bands ability to do something so completely different from what they had done before.
Three years on, they followed the album with a continuation of the Amorphous Androgynous project, Alice in Ultraland. Rumoured to be accompanied by a film of the same title, the album took The Isness' psychedelic experimentation and toned it down, giving the album a singular theme and sound, and replacing the more bizarre moments with funk and ambient interludes. The album was ignored by the press, but more favourable among fans than its predecessor. Unlike The Isness, which featured almost 100 musicians over the course of it and the various alternative versions and remix albums, Alice in Ultraland featured a fairly solid band lineup throughout, which extended to live shows which the band had undertaken away from the ISDN cables, from 2005 onwards.
“ ...song form has just become too limited. And when I say 'psychedelic', it's not a reference to 60s music but to the basic outlook of a child, which we all have. I think this is the only salvation now. Dance music taught us how to use the studio in a new way, but we have to now take that knowledge and move on with it. This stuff, electronic music, is not dead. It's a process that is ongoing. We have to take hold of the past and go forward with it... ”
- Cobain on the new Amorphous Androgynous sound.
5.1 & Digital experimentation
The FSOL moniker re-appeared in 2006 with a piece entitled "A Gigantic Globular Burst Of Anti-Static", intended as an experiment in 5.1 Surround Sound and created for an exhibition at the Kinetica art museum entitled, appropriately, "Life Forms". The piece contained reworked material from their archives and newer, more abstract ambient music. The piece was coupled with a video called "Stereo Sucks", marking the band's theories on the limitations of stereo music, released on a DVD packaged with issue 182 of Future Music Magazine in December 2006 and on FSOL's own download site in March 2007.
They have also been, literally, creating their own sounds when they began constructing electronic instruments, the result of which can be heard on the 2007 release Hand-Made Devices. At their website Glitch TV (where the motto is "[A] sudden interruption in sanity, continuity or programme function") they sell and explain their devices such as the "Electronic Devices Digital Interface" glitch equipment.
FSOLdigital and the Archives
In 2007, the band uploaded several archive tracks online, for the first time revealing much of their unreleased work and unveiling some of the mystery behind the band. The old FSOL material, including the previously unreleased album Environments, along with a selection of newer experiments, the 5.1 experiments and a promise of unreleased Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic material, was uploaded for sale on their online shop, FSOLdigital.com. As of July 2008 the CD releases of the Archives series have sold over 15,000 units.
“ The FSOLdigital platform has performed very well - we are delighted that people still dig us - we dig you all too. ”
- Brian Dougans on the positive reaction to the site and "Archives" sales.
In early March 2008, the band released a new online album as Amorphous Androgynous entitled The Peppermint Tree and Seeds of Superconsciousness, which they describe as "A collection of psychedelic relics from The Amorphous Androgynous, 1967-2007". The release retains the sound of their last two psychedelic albums, while expanding on the element of funk first introduced on 2005's Alice in Ultraland. They recorded their following album, The Woodlands of Old, under the alias of their imaginary engineer Yage. Unlike the techno work recorded as Yage in 1992, this new record was darker, more trip-hop and world music-oriented and featured ex-Propellerheads member Will White.
In a continuation of the band's newer, more candid side, they revealed future plans to fans via email and MySpace, with 2008 promising archives from The Amorphous Androgynous, more solo experiments from Brian and further Environments albums, covering past and present material. An entirely new FSOL album is in the works, but no actual details have been revealed to date.
In August 2008, the band put out Environments II online, showcasing an unseen side of the band, largely pure ambient and orchestral in style and haunting in mood, and considerably different over its fourteen icy sounding tracks to the original Environments record. On the same day, a fifth Archive release was made available, leaving announced but unreleased tracks suggesting a possible sixth in the series.
In 2010, they made major updates to The Pod Room, with number of their live ISDN transmissions from the 1990s being uploaded and made available for sale for the first time.
The band's third Environments album, also released in 2010, was the first record to appear on CD and MP3 at the same time, and was promoted by a series of teaser videos and tracks online. Bringing a darker tinge to the band's cinematic ambience, the release brought more emphasis on rhythm to the series. A similar release appeared for From the Archives Vol. 6 later in the year.
2011 saw the re-emergence of the FSOLDigital store's selling of other artists, with the album Safernoc by electronic musician Second Thought being made available in February.
Further archived material is expected through the online shop, including the third Zeebox record, more solo work by Brian as Six Oscillators In Remittance and EMS:Piano, Amorphous Androgynous archives and FSOL demos under the name 2" Tape Reels. Further forays into the archives have appeared in the form of The Pod Room broadcast and podcast page, featuring all of the band's ISDN broadcasts and mixes.
A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind
Following on from the band's 1997 DJ set of the same name, a series of "Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind" mix CDs were begun in 2006. The first two were released under the Amorphous Androgynous alias, subtitled "Cosmic Space Music" and "Pagan Love Vibrations" respectively, with the first taking over two years to compile, mix and gain sample clearance, both featuring the band's psychedelic influences. A third is set for release sometime in 2010, and will be more electronic, mixed by The Future Sound of London. Further mixes in the series are expected in the future, to be curated by related artists, and the band took the concept live with an eleven hour spot at 2009's Green Man festival, to contain live bands and DJ spots.
Noel Gallagher of British rock band Oasis, after hearing the first release, became a fan and asked the band to remix the following Oasis single "Falling Down". The Amorphous Androgynous responded with a 5 part, 22 minute Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remix, which Noel liked enough to release on its own 12". Noel also invited Gaz to DJ at the afterparty for one of Oasis' gigs at Wembley Arena.
The band continue the psychedelic theme to the mixes on their podcast site The Pod Room and on February 2010's Mojo Magazine cover CD. The Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remixes grow in popularity with commissions from Paul Weller and Pop Levi, and Gaz has suggested a full album of remixes and covers will appear on their recently formed Monstrous Bubble label
Future of the band
On 2 April 2007 Garry Cobain posted a video onto his YouTube account of him arguing with a lady at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London about God entitled "the GOD WARS - An Argument I Had At Speaker's Corner". It is edited in a humorous way by him with the intro title "COMIC BELIEF presents..." and has a brief spiritual guru like "musical interlude".
Between 2008 and 2010, the band showcased a series of radio broadcasts and podcasts called The Electric Brain Storms. Proton Radio hosted the first on 16 June 2008, PBS radio in Australia were due to showcase the second, and Frisky Radio broadcast the third. The remaining shows appeared on the band's official site. The shows featured electronic, krautrock, experimental and psychedelic favourites of the band mixed in with known and unknown FSOL material, including newly recorded tracks, archived pieces, and new alias recordings such as EMS:Piano. Many of the new tracks featured on Environments 3, but some pieces remain unreleased and are planned for the next Future Sound of London album, alongside pieces featuring on the band's YouTube page. Gaz has described the album as having "the introspective, kind of euphoric sadness that was always there in the FSOL melodies".
In a possible continuation of the ambient and orchestral theme first previewed by FSOL via Environments II, and later on the previewed tracks from the forthcoming record, the band are apparently working on a collaboration Academy Award-winning short film director Hugh Welchman called Sh. They will produce a "musical remix of the film"
The duo played their first live set as FSOL for 12 years at the 2009 Bloc Weekend in Minehead. The show, like the band's set at the Essential Festival in 1997, was broadcast from their studio in Somerset. Rumours of a world tour, which some believe is further evidence for imminent release of new material, were made concrete by confirmation of live FSOL appearances at 2009's Bestival event in the UK, and a festival run by Existenz in Athens, Greece, and an 11-hour Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble curated tent at 2009's Green Man festival, including a performance by Hawkwind. The live nature of the sets (as opposed to the Electric Brainstorm DJ mix series) suggested they might feature the first entirely new Future Sound of London material since 1997, and those rumours turned out to be true with a few new tracks played, albeit currently untitled. There is promise of a DVD featuring the Athens performance, plus extras, in 2010. Further Archives are also expected in the future, along with the fourth Environments album, as advertised in the sleeve of Environments 3.
On 6 July 2011 it was announced that Noel Gallagher's second solo album will be in collaboration with The Amorphous Androgynous, and is set for release in 2012.
Since the turn of the millennium, FSOL took a more independent turn with their career, releasing their more psychedelic Amorphous Androgynous on an independent label; The Isness on Artful Records and Alice In Ultraland on the progressive Harvest Records, which is an arm of EMI.
They also have their own label called Electronic Brain Violence on which a few artists such as Oil and Simon Wells (Headstone Lane), both off-beat electronic artists, have released EPs and singles. Simon Wells also contributed to Dead Cities on the track "Dead Cities Reprise"
Nevertheless, Virgin records still controls FSOL's back catalog and was going to release the Teachings from the Electronic Brain compilation without them, but the duo insisted on taking control of the projects production. Cobain says that, even with Virgin, the reason they were able to do their own thing and create the music they wanted in the 1990s was because they already had some major hits under their belts such as "Papua New Guinea", "Metropolis" and "Stakker Humanoid" before joining the label.
“ Why is it, everybody, from the fucking fish and chip shop to a magazine ends up selling itself, getting the millions and retiring. Why don't people keep going with it, why can't they change it so that it keeps being important to them. Why didn't Anita Roddick keep going with Body Shop, why did it get so alien to her that she had to sell it, why? Surely she's making so many millions she can get the right people that she loves to keep going with the ethos; there's something dangerous there.
- Garry Cobain on people becoming successful only to quit.
Cobain has said that FSOL's mentality has always been about making a journey of an album rather than focusing on trying to have hit singles. He said that they had several top 40 singles (and albums) in the 90s because they had enough fans and had built up enough of a reputation to achieve these hits while still concentrating on the album rather than any potential singles during their time at Virgin.
They have been signed to Passion Records sub-label Jumpin' & Pumpin' since they started out.
- Amorphous Androgynous
- Art Science Technology
- Deep Field
- Dope Module
- Heads Of Agreement
- Indo Tribe
- Intelligent Communication
- Mental Cube
- Semi Real
- Six Oscillators In Remittance
- Smart Systems
- The Far-out Son Of Lung
- The Orgone Accumulator
- Unit 2449
- Accelerator (1991)
- Lifeforms (1994)
- ISDN (1994)
- Dead Cities (1996)
- The Isness (2002) (as Amorphous Androgynous, except in the USA)
- Environments (2007)
- Environments II (2008)
- Environments 3 (2010)
Year Single Chart Position 1988 "Stakker Humanoid" UK Singles Chart #17 1989 "Slam" UK Singles Chart #54 1992 "Papua New Guinea" UK Singles Chart #22 1992 "Stakker Humanoid '92" UK Singles Chart #40 1993 "Cascade" UK Singles Chart #27 1994 "Expander" UK Singles Chart #72 1994 "Lifeforms (feat. Elizabeth Fraser)" UK Singles Chart #14 1995 "The Far-Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" UK Singles Chart #22 1996 "My Kingdom" UK Singles Chart #13 1997 "We Have Explosive" UK Singles Chart #12 2001 "Stakker Humanoid 2001" UK Singles Chart #65 2001 "Papua New Guinea 2001" UK Singles Chart #28
Year Album Chart Position 1991 "Accelerator" UK Album Charts #75 1994 "Lifeforms" UK Album Charts #6 1994 "ISDN" UK Album Charts #44 1996 "Dead Cities" UK Album Charts #26 2002 "The Isness" UK Album Charts #68
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- Future Sound of London.com - official website.
- Yage.co.uk - official tech & video site.
- FSOL discography and reviews at Allmusic
- The Future Sound of London discography at Discogs
- The Future Sound of London on Myspace
- Amorphous Androgynous on Myspace
- The Future Sound of London at Rate Your Music
- Amorphous Androgynous at Rate Your Music
- The Future Sound of London at YouTube
- Welcome To The Galaxial Pharmaceutical - fansite with official news and information from the band, plus in depth discography.
- an overview of their studio equipment et cetera from 1994
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.