I decided after some time that the easiest way to cover the bulk of the Archives series was to tackle them all at once. We’ve already got Vol. 1 out of the way, but I knew it’d take a while to discuss the next five volumes, especially if I did them all as individual posts. For everyone’s convenience, here’s one massive post that should cover them all.
PT 26: Archives Vol. 2 (2007, on Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ / FSOLdigital)
If you’re in any way familiar with FSOL’s ISDN transmissions from the mid to late 90s, this album will be full of tracks you might know. I will admit, I heard several of these on bootlegs in the early 2000s, but the sound quality obviously wasn’t as good. In many ways, hearing these tracks again is a breath of fresh air. This was the band that made live broadcasts so damn exciting; their brand of ambience leaping from genre to genre without a second thought. Tracks of this nature include: Brujo, Environment Thunder, Slow of Motion, Dark Matter, Fractional Difference and others.
And of course, there are some tracks I’m not certain where they were used prior to being released here. Some were from long forgotten compilations but others, I’ve got no idea. These tend to be the more experimental tracks that defy genres, like: Distant Nebulus, Wanting (awesome bass on this track), Insected (a thumping remix of Cascade), Head Kick, and a mass of others.
The blending of samples and original synth and textures is flawless. The material here seems to be a mix of older 90s stuff and more recent demos and compilation tracks. The blend is nice, covering a broad section of FSOL’s career. Great mix!
4.8 out of 5.
Pt. 27: Archives vol. 3 (2007, Jumpin; & Pumpin’ / FSOLdigital)
Most of the material at the start doesn’t seem to be leftovers from ISDN shows (though some of it is), and thus, a lot of the material seems newer and fresh. Even the sparse remixes of older material feels original and brilliant. The bulk of the tunes are prime FSOL-styled ambient with some psyche influenced bits hither and thither. Standout tracks include: Room 207, Teeth of the Wind, Stomach Acid, and Insides.
As we progress through the album, we get some ISDN transmission material. It’s mostly gentle ambient bits, ranging from Lifeforms era to Dead Cities era. And while this is mixed between newer sounding tracks like the previous Archives album, this still maintains a smooth feel over all. I swear “Stomach Acid” was once known as “Subliminal Aura” before… oh well.
4.7 out of 5.
Pt. 28: Archives vol. 4 (2007/8, Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ / FSOL Digital)
This volume features different cover art than what appears typically through the rest of the series and has the least amount of tracks. That’s not a bad thing but it is kind of an odd twist. It’s hard to say when these tracks were recording, as they sound newer but still hint at older material. I don’t recall hearing too many of these on the bootlegs that circulated at the time. At any rate, the blending of old and new is so well done that these might as well be new tracks. It’s a good mix of ambient and FSOL’s typical off the wall style. Some tracks are slamming with supreme bass and remixed samples from older tunes, while some are demos (a different form of Mango Tree appears here, for example).
Stand out tracks include: 100 Baby Spiders, Absent With Concept, Mango Tree (Original), Golden Burnt and Speed Ball.
4.8 out of 5.
Pt. 29: Archives vol. 5 (2008, Jumpin’ & Pumpin’ / FSOL Digital)
“Sendero Luminoso” is the opening track, and it features samples from “Papua New Guinea”, mixed with slamming beats, synth and sitar. Elements of this track were featured on FSOL’s 1997 Peel transmission and I cannot express how thrilled I am to see this resurface here. This track is awesome.
Whoa, this CD is actually mixed seamlessly between tracks? Yes, it is. This gives the album less of a compilation feel and more of a cohesive feel. It’s an interesting touch and a welcomed one. Again, this album is a mixture of older ISDN tracks and newer material that didn’t make its way out until now, so some tunes are familiar and others aren’t. This gels rather nicely at least. At times, it seems FSOL add minor funk elements here in spots and many tracks lay the beats on think. Granted, I don’t feel like this is a dance oriented piece, but it is heavier than previous Archives.
Stand out tracks: Sendero Luminoso, Yashica, Tif Feetal, Darkness at Noon, Vacuum, and Tokyo Travel. Ok, that’s like most of the album, but that really just means there’s not much to skip over.
4.9 out of 5.
Pt. 30: Archives vol. 6 (2010, Jumpin & Pumpon, FSOL Digital)
The final archival album, so far at least. The opening track kind of reminds me of the theme to Madmen,.. maybe it’s the strings. Track two remixes elements of various Lifeforms tracks, even toying a bit with the original vocal samples. And just like the previous installment in this series, the album is mixed seamlessly. Huzzah!
Again, the tracks here are a mix of older tunes and newer ones, many of which are reworkings of older material. Much like the previous album, the remixes are fresher than one would expect. It’s enough to keep things sounding new without being overdone. Moreover, it feels like the band mixed a bit of early 90s beats in with their mid-career ambient material, creating some sort of hybrid ambient dance stuff that hints at early Orb in spots. It’s truly interesting to see these older styles being mixed with Lifeforms and Dead Cities material. At other times, the songs are so wildly different from anything they’ve done before that it’s hard to tell what they had planned on doing with them (like track seven).
Standouts include: Protractor, Light Forming, Jelly Legs, Induced Coma, and Swarm.
4.8 out of 5.
Final thoughts: While Keith and I have criticized FSOL for recycling older material and passing it off as new on more than a few reviews, these six installments in the Archive series and perhaps the Environments series are the exceptions. This isn’t being disguised as something new; it’s prerecorded archival material and it doesn’t try to be anything but that. Yet, here we see FSOL still being creative with it, tweaking and reconstructing material into new forms for live shows and sewing it together with unreleased material and rare bits. While the Environments series does fly into uncharted territory and showcase new sounds, there is still quite a bit of older material that gets tossed in. And yet, despite this, I think a lot of us fans didn’t mind too much because it was re-presented in such a way that it was in fact, still new… if that makes any sense.
Should you buy these? Yes. These are honesty all must haves if you’re a fan of the band’s more ambient or experimental stuff. Yes, the earlier ones aren’t mixed together like the last two were, but that honestly doesn’t matter. This is a great way to glimpse some of FSOL’s material from their earlier live sessions (short of buying the newly available ISDN shows on their site) and shows their creative process at work, especially when you run into the countless tracks that weren’t used for shows or compilations. All albums are available as CDs or as digital downloads.