Future Sound Of London

Biography

THE ISNESS. "First book I ever read was the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything." Stephen Wright. It all began with the mix. The mix was going to liberate us all. Dance music technology, samplerdelica, the new technocracy, cut and paste culture, it all came together in the mix. One big poem about everything. Remember - dj skills were the precedent for this whole scene. Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata and all those other ghetto-vets who played in the parks, who made the original block rocking beats, they changed the way we all thought about records as finished product. A whole culture was built around that thinking. Remember the slogans, the philosophy, the revolutionary rhetoric? The future's up for grabs. Creativity is limitless. Everything's possible. What we ended up with was the linear tyranny of beat mixing, bloated superstar egos seguewaying thirty or so mediocre records together seamlessly, soullessly. By 1996 versatility had come to mean playing everything from hard house to not quite so hard house in the same set. Even the term eclecticism had become just another branding exercise, where one djs eclecticism ended up sounding pretty much like everybody else's. A musical and sub-cultural revolution that was supposed to spawn new higher states of consciousness had merely spawned new markets and new consumers. Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans confronted this cultural impasse by assembling the now legendary, and globally bootlegged ISDN mix A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble (Exploding In Your Mind.) Recorded shortly after the completion of the Dead Cities album in 1996 and beamed live from Dollis Hill to the world this smorgasbord of unearthly delights didn't so much breach musical barriers as smash right through them. Although Bubble could only have been conceived by artists versed in dance culture and dance music technology, utilising its recognisable sonic trickery and notions of montage, collage and cultural plunder Garry and Brian threw the rule book out of the window. Weeks of pre-production were spent painstakingly piecing together a veritable sonic mosaic. The resulting two hour head trip featured a stunningly varied array of artists, including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Pearls Before Swine, John Barry, Dik Hyman, Morton Subotnik, David Axelrod, Perrey and Kingsley, Ananda Shankar - and Jonathon King! Coil and The Chemical Brothers intertwined with The Spencer Davis Group and Bo Hansson. Synth pop sat next to acid rock. Beat poetry dovetailed into hardcore white noise. Glen Cambells By The Time I Get To Phoenix melted into 23 Skidoo. Light My Fire (Helmut Zacharias's version naturally) sat alongside the prophecy and spiritual guidance of Bill Hicks and Deepak Chopra. Harry Nilsson's Without Her was juxtaposed with a red raw poem read by Robert Bly about how his woman had left him. (Fuck Coltrane. Fuck Art. Fuck Poetry. Fuck God) this was as far away from genre beat mixing as you could get but it wasn't just what was played it was the way the separate sound sources were wrenched from their original context and re-configurated that made Bubble a truly psychedelicised breath of fresh air. Decks grind to meltdown on the title line from Jonathon Kings 'Everyones gone to the moon.' The chorus of The Walker Brother's "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" is looped and drenched in echo. Robert Wyatts pure clear plaintive English voice rises from the haze like a dawn raga. A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble was a place where absurdity and profundity could co-exist in multi-layered bliss. Everything was up for grabs again. The mix didn't just signify a radical re-evaluation of FSOL's raison detre it also helped articulate Garry's increasing disenchantment with the constrictions of dance culture. "When we beamed the mix down ISDN lines to Brightons Essential festival in 1996 journalists asked us if this wasn't all a bit cold. No more than a couple of little pin men on stage twiddling with equipment and mumbling between tracks. That's pretty cold," replied Cobain. Bubble also brazenly acknowledges in its choice of music that the discarded vinyl gems that Garry and Brian were finding at car boot sales were often far weirder than any of the supposedly cutting edge state of the art items emerging from an increasingly moribund dance scene. "For me hardcore electronics, hardcore bands, they're all passé", says Garry. And with techno music increasingly atrophying into a quaint Metropolis meets Doctor Who future-nostalgia The Future Sound of London moniker was also starting to get a bit problematic. "The name never really was much to do with us being futuristic" says Garry. "For me that whole future lust thing went out five years ago when the internet explosion happened." He was also unhappy with dance technologies increasing tendency to promote male egotism and aggression and for their next release Garry and Brian made a conscious decision to return to their Amorphous Androgynous alias. More than anything Garry was sick of the band being pigeonholed as art house electronica. "It was funny, people would come to the studio and they'd say, so you like Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream yeah? And I'd be thinking I must be doing something wrong here, because actually I like Barbara Streisand and Rachmaninov and Debussy, and all these odd moments that just capture my soul, from crappy Italian film music to an Indian raga to Frank Sinatra. That was my perspective on music." The original plan was to release A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble as a dj compilation album but when it became obvious that copyright clearance for all these multi-layered fragments was going to be a logistical nightmare Garry and Brian decided to apply the explorations and thinking behind their sonic mosaic to their own music. This gear change in musical direction has reached fruition with The Isness. So why has it taken five years? Well for starters its easy to forget just how incredibly prolific Garry and Brian were during the first half of the 1990's. In addition to the three FSOL albums Accelorator (1992) Lifeforms (1994) and Dead Cities (1996) and the Amorphous Androgynous album Tales of Ephidrina (1993) there were numerous extended, ie 30 minutes plus, singles, Papua New Guinea, Cascades, My Kingdom, and numerous other one offs and aliases. Gary felt that the outfit was becoming a bit of a compliant corporate tool. It was time to dis-engage, tune out, re-assess. There was physical upheaval, as the band re-located from the Earthwork studios in Dollis Hill to the Old Street hinterland. And then Garry got ill. First he thought it was the positive ions in the computers that were fucking with his immunity system. Later he discovered it was the mercury from his fillings. In the meantime he trawled the globe, spent time in India, fasting, meditating, learning, healing. The Isness is part of that healing process, a holistic organic all barriers down approach to music making without losing any of that restless quality which saw FSOL constantly railing against orthodoxy in every shape and form in the early nineties. "Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration and that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream and you are the imagination of yourself. Here's Tom with the weather." Bill Hicks. Anyone who thinks of psychedelia merely as a musical category fixed in time and space is going to have trouble with this record. Although the musical revolution of the late sixties is undoubtedly the major underpinning influence Garry and Brian recognise that psychedelia transcends its stylistic and temporal trappings and is as much a state of mind as a musical genre. Just one glance at the sheer array of artists featured on the Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble mix should be enough to convince you that this is not a band weighed down by the cultural baggage of previous generations. "I've had people telling us precisely why the Moody Blues aren't hip" says Garry. "What they mean is why the Moody Blues weren't perceived as hip when they were growing up in the late sixties. It means nothing to us. I no longer care about the critical mass of the first week of sales. I prefer to think of our music as a little recorded time capsule that will still have relevance and resonance in years to come. There's this glorious hybridisation where anything goes right now, and anyone who's trying to set up markets cynically using demographics is already part of the old older. The new order for me is based on female intuitive soul and that will always win through over demographic corporatisation." The Isness is part of that new intuitive order. There's a quiet revolution going on. Haven't you heard? Throw away your pager. Turn your answer machine off. Stop neurotically checking your text messages every ten minutes. Stop watching channel zero. None of this gadgetry will deliver you from banality or make you any happier. The Isness just might. Find some personal space, go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember, as Jack Kerouac once said, walking on water wasn't built in a day.

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Future Sound Of London - Translations

29th October 2001 -

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