Future Sound of London: Teachings

By: Chris Pacifico

In the nearly two decades of their existence, the Manchester duo of Brain Dougans and Gary Cobain, better known as the Future Sound of London, have remained one of the most newfangled driving forces in electronic music. While they may not be a household name in the States, chances are you've heard their music, perhaps at a rave or on a DJ mix tape. Their sonic pallet is unique and crosses through just about every genre and sub-genre in electronica, all underpinned by earthy ambient drones and deeply cinematic sampling.

The most ambient FSOL tracks are richly organic, evoking the sense of being lost in a jungle on a deserted South Pacific island in the South Pacific. It never comes off like the soggy New Age crap you hear at masseuse appointments. Teachings From the Electronic Brain (Astralwerks) is a long overdue compilation featuring the crème de la crème of FSOL. Earlier retrospectives tended to sequence the tracks chronologically Teachings mixes things up to create an idiosyncratic ebb and flow that, like FSOL, is purely Delphic and immune from the concept of time.

Teachings embarks with the flickering dub of 1992's "Papa New Guinea," which is arguably their biggest hit as well as the most experimental club anthem of the '90s, and features a meandering sample of Lisa Gerard's coo lifted from the Dead Can Dance song "Dawn of the Iconoclast." Of all the songs included, none are more haunting than the cuts from their 1996 release Dead Cities, FSOL's most sprawling, haunting and lofty release to date. Touching on the theme of urban decay in a post apocalyptic world, Dead Cities contains the sinister, lurking chamber vibe of "Max" as well as the doomy, hair raising Angelic chanting of "Everyone In The World Is Doing Something Without Me." "My Kingdom" is a breezy Far Eastern number meshed together with samples from Ozric Tentacles' "Pungent Effulgent," a pan flute lick from Ennio Morricone's score to Once Upon A Time In America and a vocal infusion from Vangelis' "Rachel's Song" from the Blade Runner soundtrack.

Many of the segues and breakdowns gave off the feeling of someone or something lurking in the darkness, much like Pink Floyd did on Dark Side of the Moon. "Antique Toy" pretty much served as the prototype for modern IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and the monotone stabbing grooves of breakbeat-orientated "We Have Explosive" will always be a welcome throwback for those who stayed up until the wee hours to check out MTV's Amp. While tracks like "The Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" is music to fall asleep to, Teachings is the perfect launching point for new FSOL listeners as well as a heady look back for the seasoned fans.

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[Published on: 6/9/07]

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