Future Sound of London
For over fifteen years, Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans (The Future Sound of London) have disregarded conventional composition in favor of ambient-flavored, irregular electronic styles that oftentimes appear slightly off kilter. The fruit of their labors is a catalog of music that remains fresh, focused, innovative and intense. The duo’s predilection for experimentation has kept them at the forefront of a genre that occasionally suffers from stagnation and lethargy.
Their technique holds true throughout The Otherness, the follow up to 2002’s The Isness. The Otherness is a companion of sorts; it’s an inside out collection of mixes from The Isness as well as material from their previous EPs. However, this time around the music is deeper and more ambient than electronic.
On this record, FSOL again combines electronic sounds with ambient textures to create something intricate. FSOL then harvests these sounds, creating a mélange complete with Indian and Far Eastern tinged melodies. The resulting splendor is an interesting concoction of tranquil bliss.
Those familiar with the band or their countless aliases already know what to expect. But newcomers will be awed by FSOL’s attention to detail and structure. Despite utilizing previously recorded material, Cobain and Dougans have used a large canvas to work their magic.
A cosmic new version of “Elysian Feels” kicks off the album in fine fashion. It starts slowly, and grows into a bombastic spree. “Yo-Yo” is a bluesy reinvention of Pink Floyd that starts off interestingly, but then falls flat. A newish version of “Goodbye Sky” is next. It’s a trippy, blippy far out ride. It’s followed by a new mix of “The Lovers” that features a sitar-fused noise fest that sounds like George Harrison and Ravi Shankar went to the disco. It has layers of sitar meshed beautifully with tabla sounds and backing beats. “Maharishi Raga” also features the sitar, but for this go around FSOL has added spacy atmospherics to the mix to create something mellow and pleasant. The eerie “Chinese Whispers” meshes the sitars and rolling percussion with a calm, ethereal vocal loop. “Theram” is a frenzied skittish throw down where East meets West, with twisting beats and layered sounds. Just when you think you have everything sussed out, FSOL throws a curveball with “Toy Piano.” It closes the album quietly and simply by removing the layers of complicated sounds and gadgets.
While The Otherness is an album that revels in its expansive sounds and creative experimentation, it may not sit well with die-hard electronic music fans expecting the techno flavor of “We Are Explosive” or “Papua New Guinea.” Yet, FSOL’s fixation with tranquilizing exotic sounds and experimentation shows that this is a band that continues to push the boundaries of electronic music into refreshing new frontiers.