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Future Sound Of London

Back in the day, the Future Sound Of London was quite the prolific group. Between the years of 1992 and 1996, they released 4 full-length albums (including a 2CD set) as well as about 10 or more singles, with most of them clocking in at 6 tracks or more. Not only that, but the group was experimenting with all kinds of audio/visual presentations and the transmission of music via a different route than traditional radio. ISDN (named after the digital phone line the music was broadcasted on) is the result of many different transmissions, and even though the tracks were culled from many different intervals, they were mixed back together and the result is quite a cohesive album and possibly one of the best by the group.

The disc starts off with sort of a live sound as one can hear people talking and just a little bit of electronic gurgling in the background before one of the members of the group calls out for people to stop flashing lights and the track creeps into motion. It's a fairly dark sounding effort, with a rhythm comprised of a muted blast of wind noise and plenty of little blips and squirts to go around. From there, the album drops off into "The Far Out Son Of A Lung And The Ramblings Of A Madman" with a burst of noise and a sample from Aliens. The track really kicks in when a 3/3 beat drops and a drunken muted trumpet winds itself into the mess of sound.

After a bit of ambience with "Slider," things pick up quite quickly again with the deep beat in "Slider." With every progressive measure, the duo layer on something new until nearly halfway, when the track is literally swimming in different sounds. Of course, they know to create a little tension and drop things off into quiet bridges every once in awhile before cranking the sound again. It's thick and rich, like eating a bowl of aural fudge. Not only can the group write tracks that bog down and wallow like electronic goop, but they also manage to strip things down once in awhile and still come out with winning tracks. "Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead" (despite the somewhat gruesome title) is a pretty little track of strange keyboard effects and tweaked samples that should give any blip-freak their daily RDA. The album ends on an excellent note with a sort of middle-eastern influence on "Kai" (and more of those sticky thick beats), the muted backbeats of "Amoeba," and the pretty "A Study Of Six Guitars." On the album closer "Snake Hips," they manage to somehow meld horns, a wah-wah guitar, and all kinds of other contraptions into yet another uber-cool track without the slightest bit of cheese.

Although they've taken quite an interval after Dead Cities (and may have broken up), ISDN is quite a document of sound for the group and shows that they somehow managed to create an album way back in 1994 that barely sounds dated when listened to over half a decade later. With 15 tracks and over 75 minutes of music, it's an excellent way to either get introduced to the group, or hear an influence for some of the IDM electronic music that's coming out today. Fortunately, the music has aged better than the title.

Rating: 8.25