The Future Sound Of London - Dead Cities

Album cover

  1. Herd Killing (2:37)
  2. Dead Cities (6:37)
  3. Her Face Forms In Summertime (5:38)
  4. We Have Explosive (6:19)
  5. Everyone In The World Is Doing Something Without Me (4:10)
  6. My Kingdom (5:47)
  7. Max (2:48)
  8. Antique Toy (5:44)
  9. Quagmire / In A State Of Permanent Abyss (6:57)
  10. Glass (5:38)
  11. Yage (7:32)
  12. Vit Drowning / Through Your Gills I Breathe (5:32)
  13. First Death In The Family (4:45)

Astralwerks, 1996

also by The Future Sound Of London:

see also... The Orb, Aphex Twin, Susumu Yokota

"Lifeforms" was a classic of electronic composition, and with this follow-up they have kept up their constant invention with some more astonishingly varied music. While some people might call this stuff "ambient" it's about as far from wallpaper music as it is possible to get. It's too exciting, dark and even scary to be purely functional chill-out music. The tracks are linked by short passages of industrial sound effects and generally sinister sounding electronics, creating a continuous soundtrack to a broad urban landscape. This would have been perfect for "Blade Runner" if that film had been made 20 years later.

But it's not bleepy stuff either. The palette of sounds that they use seem to be created organically from samples of real instruments, voices and effects, so there's a much warmer sound than you get from random techno. Particularly beautiful are the alien choir on "Everyone In The World Is Doing Something Without Me", and the soft looped guitar tune on "Her Face Forms In Summertime". "Max" could be accused of being too syrupy, laden with layers of shifting pads, delicate piano and a romantic "underwater" sounding sax solo, but I lap this stuff up. "Glass" has a almost Aphex-like interweaving of delicate blips. "Yage" is another favourite, with a broad metallic tune emerging from the slow throbbing beat.

The only times where it loses the excitement are the occasional plainer bits of ordinary techno. "We Have Explosive" adds a silly computery voiceover to this cheesy sound. But there must be something here for everyone, this album is so kaleidoscopic. Even at the end of the CD there is the old "surprise track" trick, containing a fun bit of random punk thrashing.

February 5, 2004

9 out of 10

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written and maintained by Christopher Jackson