The Life and Times of the Future Sound of London pt. 17

Artist: FSOL

Title Papua New Guinea Translations

Released: 2001/2

Label: Jumpin’ n Pumpin’, Hypnotic

Format: CD, 2×12”

Genre: Ambient, psyche rock, acid jazz, abstract

This is the first release FSOL pushed after being silent since 1997, unless you count the 2001 reissue of “Accelerator”.  A lot of us were scratching our heads at first because we weren’t sure if this was just a reissue of the single.  As it turned out, it was a full length album in which their first hit single gets a massive reworking.  Here, following sort of the “path” format from earlier singles, we get to explore longer, deeper and highly creative tracks that are quite varied.  This is not a remix album by any stretch of the imagination and it kind of takes FSOL’s ‘paths’ approach to a higher level.

But why did “Papua New Guinea” get the album treatment?  From what I recall from their webpage back in 2002, the duo had been talking with some younger folks and they suddenly realized that none of them had ever heard of that track before.  Somewhat shocked and a little insulted, they took to the studio and created these masterful tracks.  Surely, now, no one would forget about “Papua New Guinea.”  Again, I’m going off of my own recollections from a webpage that’s been gone for nine years; there could be a lot more to this story than what I have at hand.

At any rate, let’s move on to the music.  We open here with the 12” original cut of the title track.  This album really wouldn’t be complete without it, honestly.  Next, we’re off to “Papsico,” which does feature a few elements of the original track but evolves more than most remixes would, especially when you compare this to the original mixes from the 1991 single.  Next, we have “The Lovers,” a funky psychedelic track thick with fun guitar licks, jazzy vibes and some vocal samples.  This track really is great.  It’s so different from anything the band had done before.  I find it to be one of the most irresistible cuts.  And when the sitar hums in, you have a neo-psyche track that’ll live on forever.

“Wooden Ships” slinks in with a rapid mixed sample from the original track that gets quickly layered with a soft breakbeat, a psyche organ and a blissfully distorted guitar.  We have a neo-psyche jam that flows like a dreamy river or an opioid vision.  This is pure genius and is my favorite FSOL track of the last ten years, which is saying a lot.  Things get a bit more experimental with “The Great Marmalade Mama in the Sky.”  Again, we’re linked in with the same vocal sample from the original but the music gets spun in a darker direction with textured guitars and a faster beat.  We get a few more samples from the original (flutes and electronic chirps) but its reformatted into this track in such a way that it works without sounding redundant.

“Requiem,” as the title suggests, brings on a feeling of sadness. This really is a beautiful yet mournful track.  We slide into it with a small sample from the original track before diving in with banjo, guitar, and harmonica with some light and textured piano.  We get some despondent operatic voices to boot, and what you’re left with is a soundtrack to a bleak and dead landscape that you’re leaving in the hope that something better is in your future.  This track is brilliant and I am surprised this one hasn’t found itself on an actual film score.

“Things that Change like the Patterns and Shades from the Sun” and “Big Blue” round out the album.  The first track here feels sort of jazzy and sort of hints, to me, a bit of early DJ Shadow’s sound.  Despite the jazz feel, the track fills you with a sort of urgency that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Our final track barrows a bit from the previous cuts from the album- the sax bit from the last track, the sitar from “The Lovers” and “Wooden Ships” and a somewhat familiar beat.  The track doesn’t really advance until you’re at least half way through it.  Here, we get some newer synth pads and acoustic guitar layered in with some original “Papua New Guinea” elements.  Despite this feeling like just a summary of the album, it’s not a bad mix by far.

This CD also features the original video for the title track.  It’s fairly trippy and enjoyable, though if you poke around Youtube long enough, you’ll discover a totally different video from c. 1992… which makes me wonder just which one of these is the actual original ( “original” and the “other one”).  Either way you shake it, it’s still nice to have the video on here.  It makes the journey feel complete.

Should you buy this?  Fans of the original single most likely will not be disappointed.  You won’t get a whole lot of ambient house mixes like what was being offered up in the early 90s, but you get a unique full length piece of music that takes the track in completely new directions.  It’s well worth a buy.

4.75 out of 5.

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About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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