The Future Sound of LondonThe Future Sound of London (often abbreviated to FSOL) is a British electronic music group composed of Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans. Described as a "boundary-pushing" electronic act by AllMusic, their work covers many areas of electronic music, such as techno, ambient, house music, trip hop, psychedelia, and dub.
During the 1990s, they released the seminal albums Lifeforms (1994) and Dead Cities (1996) to some commercial success. The artists were fairly enigmatic in the past but have become more candid with their fanbase in recent years with social websites like Myspace, YouTube, their forum and many interviews in which Cobain almost always speaks for the group.
FormationGarry Cobain and Brian Dougans met in the mid-1980s while studying electronics at university in Manchester, England. Dougans had already been making electronic music for some time, working between Glasgow and Manchester, when the pair first began working together in various local clubs. In 1988, Dougans embarked on a project for the Stakker graphics company. The result was Stakker Humanoid, a single that went on to reach number 17 in the UK charts, becoming the first credible UK acid house tune to cross over into the mainstream. Cobain contributed to the accompanying album. A video was also produced. In the following three years the pair produced music under a variety of aliases, releasing a plethora of singles and EPs, including the successful bleep techno singles "Q" and "Metropolis", some of which would end up on the duo's first compilation album Earthbeat in 1992. "Metropolis" was also very influential in the house scene.
FSOLIn 1991 they released their first album, Accelerator, which was followed by their single "Papua New Guinea", featuring a looping Lisa Gerrard vocal sample from Dead Can Dance's "Dawn of the Iconoclast" and a bassline from Meat Beat Manifesto's "Radio Babylon". The track has made several British "Best songs ever" polls and track specific accolades. In 1992, Virgin Records were looking for electronic bands and, after the chart success of "Papua New Guinea", quickly signed them, giving them free rein to experiment, with a reported advance payment of £75,000. With this the duo invested in a collection of Akai S1000 samplers and other equipment.
They began to play with more ambient music, resulting in the Tales of Ephidrina album of 1993, the first album to be released under the Amorphous Androgynous alias; this was well received by press and marked a distinct shift from the more techno-driven Accelerator, retaining some dance beats, but focussing more on texture, mood and sound. The album was adventurously released on Quigley, the band's own short-lived offshoot of Virgin. At this time, the band had begun experimenting with radio performance, broadcasting now legendary three-hour radio shows to Manchester's Kiss FM from their studio.
Lifeforms, ambience and the ISDN tour"Cascade", released as a single in 1993, introduced the commercial music world to the new FSOL sound. Despite its length, clocking in at nearly forty minutes and stretched over six parts, the track made the UK top 30, and previewed what was to come. In 1994, they released Lifeforms to critical acclaim. The album featured unconventional use of percussion interspersed with ambient segments. The eponymous single from the album featured Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins on vocals. Throughout the record, familiar motifs and samples repeated themselves, sitting alongside tropical birdsong, rainfall, wind and an array of other exotic sounds, lending the album a natural, organic feel, backed up by the environmental landscapes that filled the artwork booklet. Brian Dougan's father was involved with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop which was a heavy influence in the almost musique concrète feel to Lifeforms. The album was also a top 10 hit on the UK album chart. Cobain has said that around this time that journalists would come to talk to them and one of the first things they would ask would be if they liked Brian Eno (whom they cite as an influence), to which they would laugh and say that they were about looking forward, not to the past. It was, to them, very much a new work rather than just another Eno-type ambient album.
text=We wanted to release a very immersive, mind-blowing piece of music that was long and would deeply drench you in it...Lifeforms was redefining 'classical ambient electronic experimental' – that was the phrase we used.
That year, they released the limited edition album ISDN, which featured live broadcasts they had made over ISDN lines to various radio stations worldwide to promote Lifeforms, including The Kitchen, an avant-garde performance space in New York and several appearances on the late John Peel's celebrated BBC radio Sessions shows. These shows marked the evolution of the Kiss FM shows of 1992 and 1993, moving away from DJ sets and into ambient soundscapes, with previously released material performed alongside unheard tracks. One live performance to BBC Radio 1 featured Robert Fripp performing alongside the band. The released album's tone was darker and more rhythmic than Lifeforms. Cobain stated that with ISDN they had wanted to achieve something epic and grand but no matter how much technological or personal support they had (and they had everything they could have possibly wanted) they never got to truly do what they envisioned; he admits to wanting too much at this time, even though the album was successful; the 90s, for Cobain in particular, were a time of frustration and feelings of not being able to do what they wanted to, because the technology at the time didn't fit the band's ideas. The following year, the album was re-released with expanded artwork and a slightly altered track list as an unlimited pressing.
In addition to music composition, their interests have covered a number of areas including film and video, 2D and 3D computer graphics, animation in making almost all their own videos for their singles, radio broadcasting and creating their own electronic devices for sound making. They have released works under numerous aliases.
Dead CitiesThe 1995 edition of John Peel Sessions featured three entirely new tracks, which took the breakbeats and chaotic sampling of ISDN away from their previous lush synthscapes and toward a new, more contemporary sound. In 1996, they released Dead Cities, which expanded upon these early demos. The new material was a mix of ambient textures and dance music. The lead single, "My Kingdom", introduced the sound, with a video featuring shots of London, and a sound suggesting a dystopian city. The album also featured the band's first collaboration with composer Max Richter, which included the big beat track "We Have Explosive" that featured manipulated samples sourced from Run DMC. Released in 1997; it was used on the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation soundtrack, and (before the single release) in 1996 on the video game WipE'out" 2097, along with the track "Landmass", which they wrote specifically for the game. Also, a remix of "Papua New Guinea" by Hybrid was later featured in the soundtrack to WipEout Fusion in 2002. "We Have Explosive" was the second single from the album, and the band's highest charting single (beating "My Kingdom" by one spot to number 12), and over the course of its five-part extended version included hints of funk, something which would be heard again when the band returned many years later.
The album was promoted by what the band described as "the fuck rock'n'roll tour" via ISDN, lasting several months and gaining much media attention by being the first band to do a world tour without leaving their studio. While 1994's tour had focused on creating soundscapes and unreleased material, the 1996 and 1997 shows were more conventional, each offering a different take on the Dead Cities experience, blending then-current tracks with occasional exclusive pieces of the time. However, the final few performances jettisoned this material for tracks from a series of unreleased sessions, containing more live sounding material, including considerable use of guitar and percussion. These "1997 sessions" were highly sought after by fans, with some tracks forming the basis of the band's psychedelic projects of the following decade, while others appeared on the From The Archives series.
New millenniumAfter a four-year hiatus, rumours of mental illness began to spread which turned out to be nothing more than exaggeration of Cobain's mercury poisoning from fillings in his teeth. Cobain gained much from the experience, realizing that music was a tool for psychic exploration and entertainment but also one for healing . The pair returned in 2002 with "The Isness", a record heavily influenced by 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and released under their alias Amorphous Androgynous. It was preceded by Papua New Guinea Translations, a mini album which contained a mixture of remixes of FSOL's track as well as new material from The Isness sessions. The album received mixed press due to the drastic change in sound which was inspired by Cobain's and Dougan's (separate) travels to India and immersion in spiritualism, nevertheless the majority was positive with Muzik magazine offering the album a 6/5 mark and dubbing it "...a white beam of light from heaven..." and other British publications such as The Times, The Guardian and MOJO praising the album and the band's ability to do something so completely different from what they had done before.
Three years on, they followed the album with a continuation of the Amorphous Androgynous project, Alice in Ultraland. Rumoured to be accompanied by a film of the same title, the album took The Isness psychedelic experimentation and toned it down, giving the album a singular theme and sound, and replacing the more bizarre moments with funk and ambient interludes. The album was ignored by the press, but was received more favourably among fans than its predecessor. Unlike The Isness, which featured almost 100 musicians over the course of it and the various alternative versions and remix albums, Alice in Ultraland featured a fairly solid band lineup throughout, which extended to live shows which the band had undertaken away from the ISDN cables from 2005 onwards.
text=...song form has just become too limited. And when I say 'psychedelic', it's not a reference to 60s music but to the basic outlook of a child, which we all have. I think this is the only salvation now. Dance music taught us how to use the studio in a new way, but we have to now take that knowledge and move on with it. This stuff, electronic music, is not dead. It's a process that is ongoing. We have to take hold of the past and go forward with it...
5.1 & digital experimentationThe FSOL moniker re-appeared in 2006 with a piece entitled "A Gigantic Globular Burst Of Anti-Static", intended as an experiment in 5.1 Surround Sound and created for an exhibition at the Kinetica art museum entitled, appropriately, "Life Forms". The piece contained reworked material from their archives and newer, more abstract ambient music. The piece was coupled with a video called "Stereo Sucks", marking the band's theories on the limitations of stereo music, which was released on a DVD packaged with issue 182 of Future Music Magazine in December 2006 and on FSOL's own download site in March 2007.
They also moved into creating their own sounds when they began constructing electronic instruments, the result of which can be heard on the 2007 release Hand-Made Devices. At their website Glitch TV (where the motto is "[A] sudden interruption in sanity, continuity or programme function") they sell and explain their devices such as the "Electronic Devices Digital Interface" glitch equipment.
FSOLdigital and the ArchivesIn 2007, the band uploaded several archive tracks online, for the first time revealing much of their unreleased work and unveiling some of the mystery behind the band. The old FSOL material, including the previously unreleased album Environments, along with a selection of newer experiments, the 5.1 experiments and a promise of unreleased Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic material, was uploaded for sale on their online shop, FSOLdigital.com. As of July 2008 the CD releases of the Archives series have sold over 15,000 units.
text=The FSOLdigital platform has performed very well - we are delighted that people still dig us - we dig you all too.
In early March 2008, the band released a new online album as Amorphous Androgynous entitled The Peppermint Tree and Seeds of Superconsciousness, which they describe as "A collection of psychedelic relics from The Amorphous Androgynous, 1967-2007". The release retains the sound of their last two psychedelic albums, while expanding on the element of funk first introduced on 2005's Alice in Ultraland. They recorded their following album, The Woodlands of Old, under the alias of their imaginary engineer Yage. Unlike the techno work recorded as Yage in 1992, this new record was darker, more trip hop and world music-oriented and featured ex-Propellerheads member Will White.
In a continuation of the band's newer, more candid side, they revealed future plans to fans via email and MySpace, with 2008 promising archives from The Amorphous Androgynous, more solo experiments from Dougans and further Environments albums, covering past and present material. An entirely new FSOL album is in the works, but no actual details have been revealed to date.
From 2008, the band showcased a series of radio broadcasts and podcasts called The Electric Brain Storms, originally on stations such as Proton Radio, PBS radio in Australia, and Frisky Radio. The remaining shows appeared on the band's official site. and Soundcloud. The shows featured electronic, krautrock, experimental and psychedelic favourites of the band mixed in with known and unknown FSOL material, including newly recorded tracks, archived pieces, and new alias recordings. Many of the new tracks appeared on the band's Environments series. Cobain has described the new music as having "the introspective, kind of euphoric sadness that was always there in the FSOL melodies".
From this point, the band have been alternating their focus between different projects. In 2008, Environments II and From the Archives Vol. 5 were released on the band's site, followed by Environments 3 and From the Archives Vol. 6 in 2010; and Environments 4 and From the Archives Vol. 7 in 2012. Whilst the Archives feature old, unreleased material, the Environments albums feature a mixture of old demos, recently completed, and new tracks.
The band have continued to use the FSOLDigital platform to release side-projects and solo work, under names such as Blackhill Transmitter, EMS : Piano, Suburban Domestic and 6 Oscillators in Remittance, as well as distributing digital releases from other artists, including Daniel Pemberton, Herd, Kettel & Secede, Neotropic, Ross Baker and Seafar; they also continue to update The Pod Room with ISDN transmissions from the 1990s.
A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your MindFollowing on from the band's 1997 DJ set of the same name, a series of Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind mix CDs were begun in 2006. The first two were released under the Amorphous Androgynous alias, subtitled "Cosmic Space Music" and "Pagan Love Vibrations", with the first taking over two years to compile, mix and gain sample clearance, both featuring the band's psychedelic influences. A third is set for release sometime in 2010, and will be more electronic, mixed by the Future Sound of London. Further mixes in the series are expected in the future, to be curated by related artists, and the band took the concept live with an eleven-hour spot at 2009's Green Man festival, to contain live bands and DJ spots.
Noel Gallagher of British rock band Oasis, after hearing the first release, became a fan and asked the band to remix the following Oasis single "Falling Down". The Amorphous Androgynous responded with a 5 part, 22-minute Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remix, which Noel liked enough to release on its own 12". Noel also invited Cobain to DJ at the afterparty for one of Oasis' gigs at Wembley Arena.
The band continue the psychedelic theme to the mixes on their podcast site The Pod Room and on February 2010s Mojo Magazine cover CD. The Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble remixes grow in popularity with commissions from Paul Weller and Pop Levi, and Cobain has suggested a full album of remixes and covers will appear on their recently formed Monstrous Bubble label
On 6 July 2011 it was announced that Noel Gallagher's second solo album will be in collaboration with The Amorphous Androgynous, and is set for release in 2012. In August 2012, Gallagher mentioned in various interviews that he is considering scrapping the collaborative album with Amorphous Androgynous due to not being completely satisfied with the mixes. Two songs from the project have surfaced as B-sides to Gallagher's singles in 2012: "Shoot a Hole into the Sun" (based on Gallagher's track "If I Had a Gun...") was a B-side to the single "Dream On", and a mix of "AKA... What a Life!" featured on the B-side of "Everybody's on the Run". However, as the project is currently shelved, the group have returned to original material, releasing the first in a series of Monstrous Bubble Soundtracks, entitled The Cartel. On Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' album Chasing Yesterday, The Amorphous Androgynous are credited as Co-producers of the tracks "The Right Stuff" and "The Mexican".
Future of the bandThe group continue to give updates for the Galaxial Pharmaceutical news site and forum, while largely releasing material through their FSOLDigital imprint. They remain prolific, working on multiple projects at once. As "The Future Sound of London", they currently plan to continue releasing new material as part of the Environments series; the latest releases as of June 2019 are Environment Six and 6.5 from 2016.
On 26 April 2019, the band released Yage 2019, consisting of eleven songs. The album was also released on vinyl and CD on Record Store Day that year; the latter release featured an additional two tracks.
IndependenceSince the turn of the millennium, FSOL took a more independent turn with their career, releasing their more psychedelic Amorphous Androgynous on an independent label, The Isness on Artful Records and Alice in Ultraland on the progressive Harvest Records (an arm of EMI). They also have their own label called Electronic Brain Violence on which off-beat electronic artists such as Oil and Simon Wells (Headstone Lane) have released EPs and singles. Simon Wells also contributed to Dead Cities on the track "Dead Cities Reprise"
Nevertheless, Virgin records still controls FSOL's back catalog and was going to release the Teachings from the Electronic Brain compilation without them, but the duo insisted on taking control of the production of the project. Cobain says that, even with Virgin, the reason they were able to do their own thing and create the music they wanted in the 1990s was because they already had some major hits under their belts such as "Papua New Guinea", "Metropolis" and "Stakker Humanoid" before joining the label.
text=Why is it, everybody, from the fucking fish and chip shop to a magazine ends up selling itself, getting the millions and retiring. Why don't people keep going with it, why can't they change it so that it keeps being important to them. Why didn't Anita Roddick keep going with Body Shop, why did it get so alien to her that she had to sell it, why? Surely she's making so many millions she can get the right people that she loves to keep going with the ethos; there's something dangerous there.
Cobain has said that FSOL's mentality has always been about making a journey of an album rather than focusing on trying to have hit singles. He said that they had several top 40 singles (and albums) in the 90s because they had enough fans and had built up enough of a reputation to achieve these hits while still concentrating on the album rather than any potential singles during their time at Virgin.
They have been signed to Passion Records sub-label Jumpin' & Pumpin' since they started out.