MIND THE GAP (1997 – 2002)
Sometime after the release of “Dead Cities” and the “We Have Explosive” single, FSOL kind of… vanished, for a lack of a better word. And we wondered where they went.
Now, we did hear some murmurs here and there. The band broadcasted an ISDN show in 1997 and attempted to release it as a new album. However, after nearly a year of trying, they weren’t able to get all of the samples cleared for the release, and decided to sneak a few out as promos. It’s a rare release now, and it’s very hard to find copies. There’s one being sold on discogs.com for just shy of $220.
Another show was available to stream on Astralwerk’s webpage around this time. It was up on their page up until 2002 when FSOL reemerged. For those of us who heard it, it was a nice mix of their “Dead Cities” material chuck full of odd sound and vocal samples, and some hints of newer material. Sometime in 1997, FSOL were guests on the John Peel show, and for the first time, listeners got a taste of what might have been new material. (Take a listen here: pt 1, pt 2, pt 3, pt 4). Here, the band was definitely in new territory. The beats, at times, were slamming, the samples were numerous, and there were many sections with noisy guitar riffs and in a few spots, we got previews of what would end up on “The Isness” in 2002. I believe this show might be available for download on FSOL’s page (I think). This wasn’t the first time they were featured on the famous John Peel Show, but, it was their last time (I think) before John Peel’s death.
A few other shows were broadcasted in 1997, including one for Fun Radio in France, which is up for download on their web page.
In the time the band was on hiatus, rumors circulated about what they were really up to. Some folks said they were battling drug addictions or that they really just needed time for themselves. When the band came out with their 2002 albums, they posted on their webpage that Garry, who had at this point, adopted the name of Gaz, had been sick and had traveled the world, looking for a way to heal. His travels allegedly took him to Mexico City where he learned that it was the fillings in his teeth that were making him ill, and after having them replaced, he returned with an arsenal of world music influences and psychedelic rock techniques. Whether that is true or not, it really shined through on “The Isness” and “Translations.” Of course, seeing the liner notes on the releases, they had been toying around in the studio to make these recordings, which might have not allowed for much time to travel. So, one could assume that they took their hiatus because of their admitted moments of self-loathing and personal dissatisfaction with their music during the “Dead Cities” sessions.
Of course, we fans had no clue what was going on during the gap between 1996 and 2002. We had assumed they had split up and this was really it forever. Of course, we had a glimmer of hope with these IDSN transmissions and the Peel show. And when they posted their story on their webpage, one had to take it with a grain of salt as the band has a tendency to create elaborate stories (I mean, come on, Yage isn’t even a real person!) so it is hard to get the true story behind things. If anything, the gap gave us time to re-listen to their earlier works and collect whatever releases we didn’t have. A few folks formed message boards and torrent pages and offered up downloads of older ISDN shows as well as rare remixes and fan-made remixes of FSOL tracks. Obviously, the page is no longer around, but, at the time, it was all a lot of fans had to go by if they wanted “newer” or rarer material from the band. Now, you can legally get most of the ISDN shows from the band’s page (but not the remixes, obviously) and since the band’s return, newer side projects have been released on their page as well. It’s as if their break gave them the push they needed to refuel their creative juices.
It’s a little hard for me to find a good way to close this chapter in the FSOL series since this gap left a lot of us listeners hanging on the last gloomy note of “Dead Cities,” wondering if we’d be taken to new heights ever again. Luckily, we were. And what followed their return was an even wilder ride than we thought it would be. We were thrown into some sort of ambient-psyche rock mixture and then exposed to many archived tunes from their vaults, and entertained with the revival of their Amorphous Androgynous side project for the first time since 1993.
So we’ve finally reached the midpoint of this series! Huzzah!
Lots more to come, of course.