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Members include Garry Cobain (a.k.a. Gaz, born in 1966 in Bedford, England); Brian Dougans (born in 1968 in Glasgow, Scotland). Addresses: Record company--HypnoticRecords, 13428 Maxella Ave., PMB #251, Marina del Rey, CA 90292, website: http://www.hypnoticrecordings.com. Website--Future Sound of London Official Website: http://www.futuresoundoflondon.com.
The Future Sound of London (FSOL), comprised of Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans, was one of the most notable and pioneering acts of the electronic music surge of the 1990s. They have prodded the boundaries of electronic music with releases like the hit single "Papua New Guinea," and albums Accelerator, ISDN, Dead Cities, and The Isness. Cobain sings on some of the duo's tracks, but overall it remains a mystery as to who does what in the group--they both are listed as writers and producers on liner notes. The two tend to shun the press and maintain a low profile.
Cobain and Dougans met in the mid-1980s while studying electronics in Manchester, England. Dougans was already interested in electronic music, while Cobain's tastes leaned more toward guitar-based indie-rock. Dougans was working on a project for the Stakker graphics company in 1988 that developed into a single and video released under the name Humanoid. Cobain got involved with the subsequent Humanoid album, which featured house music heavy with vocals, typical of the 1980s.
The first half of the 1990s was a remarkably prolific era for the duo, who worked under the FSOL moniker but also recorded under a series of aliases, including Aircut, Amorphous Androgynous, Art Science Technology, Candese, Deep Field, Homeboy, Humanoid, Indo Tribe, Intelligent Communication, Mental Cube, Metropolis, Semtex, Semi Real, Smart Systems, the Far-out Son of Lung, Yage, Yunie, and Zeebox. They released Accelerator on the independent Jumpin' & Pumpin' label in 1991 and were permanent features of the underground techno and house scene for the next two years. The album includes the first proper single under the Future Sound of London name; the hit "Papua New Guinea" attracted the attention of Virgin Records and ended up on the soundtrack of the animated drama Cool World. "Given the group's high-precision aesthetics," wrote Mark Prendergast in New Statesman & Society, FSOL were "being dubbed the new Pink Floyd." In addition to producing their own musical style, FSOL have always created their own album covers as well.
FSOL's futuristic double CD of 1994, Lifeforms, "mixes aspects of [Pink] Floyd and Steve Miller Band with various styles of ambient house," Prendergast wrote. Rather than touring in support of Lifeforms, FSOL organized a series of radio station appearances and concert dates broadcast to specific venues via a high-speed ISDN connection. A selection of new music recorded from these events was released on ISDN in 1994. "We're experimentalists, and we closed a field as soon as we open it," Cobain told Mixmag in 1993. "It's very dangerous and very experimental. We take risks."
Dead Cities, FSOL's 1996 release, marked the duo's last moments in the electronica spotlight before an extended break from recording. The album was well received by electronic-music press and fans alike. Evidence of the duo's continued experimentalism could be found in the album's "hints of cyberpunk fetishism and atmospheres ... combined with a generally darker sound track for track and more upfront beats on a number of songs," commented All Music Guide's Ned Raggett. After the commercial success of Dead Cities, Cobain was becoming more disillusioned with FSOL's place in the corporate music industry. The duo began working furiously on a DJ compilation album, mixed and spliced together from countless samples. They quickly realized they had no chance of securing permission from the numerous rights owners--Barbra Streisand would not allow them to use snippets of "Evergreen" sampled under the sound of electronic birds chirping, just as Jonathan King would not let his "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" merge with a Charles Bukowski quote. The project, dubbed "A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind," ended up being played on radio stations in 1997, but otherwise never saw the light of day, at least commercially.
Also after Dead Cities, Cobain's health began to fail. He developed an arrhythmic heart, food and environmental allergies, eczema, and stiff joints, which were symptoms of a depressed immune system. He left Dougans behind and traveled far and wide, trying to discover the nature of his illness. He spent months in villages in India, fasting, meditating, and practicing yoga, and was also spotted in Marin County, California. For his part, Dougans occupied his time away from FSOL with his new hobby, pinhole photography. Cobain, who for a time believed computers and electronics were the root of his illness, had forsaken electronically made music in favor of playing his 12-string acoustic guitar and writing song lyrics. Cobain ultimately traced his illness to deteriorating silver fillings in his teeth, and he had them removed and replaced with non-toxic composite fillings. In addition to the hiatus imposed by Cobain's illness, record company disputes also kept them out of the studio for a time.
Cobain returned from his travels in 1998 and reunited with Dougans at their Galaxial Pharmaceutical studio in London. The two set about filling in the music Cobain had written on the road, and they were joined in the studio by sitar player Baluji Shrivastav, ex-Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas, Mike Rowe of Oasis, well-known session bassist Herbie Flowers, and 1960s pop icon Donovan. The Lager Brass group contributed brass touches and the Electric Gospel Choir added vocals. The motley group of musicians and contributors would come to be known as Amorphous Androgynous.
Five years after the last FSOL release, the duo reemerged in 2002 with The Isness, which they released under the Amorphous Androgynous moniker. Inspired by such disparate musicians as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Ananda Shankar, Supertramp, Ry Cooder, Miles Davis, and the Rolling Stones, the album was saturated with psychedelic influence. The Isness "forgoes the old loops and bleeps of electronica for a sitar-drenched freak fest that would've fit comfortably in the LSD-contorted cosmos of the Woodstock generation," according to Pulse! magazine. "Too often, though, they're apparently interested only in referencing the past and sporting their rangy instrument roster: flügelhorn, glockenspiel, harp, flute, violin, cello, harmonica, etc.," John Bush of All Music Guide said about the album. "For us, it has been a rebalancing between technology and heart and soul and mind, and all these other variables that are so preeminent in Western life," Cobain said in an interview with Pulse!
by Brenna Sanchez
Future Sound of London's Career
Group formed in Manchester, England, c. 1987; made Euro Techno video, late 1980s; released hit single, "Papua New Guinea," 1992; signed to Virgin record label; released Lifeforms double CD, 1994; released ISDN, 1994; released Dead Cities, 1996; returned with The Isness, 2002; group has also been known under the names Aircut, Amorphous Androgynous, Art Science Technology, Candese, Deep Field, Homeboy, Humanoid, Indo Tribe, Intelligent Communication, Mental Cube, Metropolis, Semtex, Semi Real, Smart Systems, the Far-out Son of Lung, Yage, Yunie, and Zeebox.
- Selected discography
- Accelerator Jumpin' & Pumpin', 1991.
- Lifeforms Astralwerks, 1994.
- ISDN Astralwerks, 1994.
- Dead Cities Astralwerks, 1996.
- The Isness Astralwerks, 2002.
- Lotus Mag, October 2002.
- Mixmag, October 1993.
- New Statesman & Society, June 24, 1997, p. 31.
- Progressive Sounds, September 3, 2002.
- Pulse!, September 2002.
- "Future Sound of London," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 29, 2002).
- The Future Sound of London Official Website, http://www.futuresoundoflondon.com (February 6, 2003).
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