Exploring FSOL’s “Environments” parts 2 through 5
It’s been well over a year since I last posted an episode in this ongoing series. So here are four albums to make up for that fact. After the release of the long awaited “Environments,” the band seemed to decide on making an ongoing series of it, at first using it to release archived material in a new and fresh way. Where the first album featured a lot of sounds from “Lifeforms” and various live ISDN bits, the second volume seemed to move beyond the idea of just pushing out archived stuff.
Volume 2 showcased a lot more new material, or at the very least, it was quite new sounding to us. The duo kept very much in the realm of ambient but incorporated a lot of elements of abstract, modern classical, IDM and hints of industrial. We’re in new territory; the duo has once again redefined everything without losing touch. And even when I find the occasional reused sample from their previous work mixed in here, it honestly is presented in a refreshing way so I don’t find myself rolling my eyes. The album as a whole is one coherent piece and keeps in line with the band’s style but charts us in a newer scape. The darker bits and the hyper-reality based soundscapes mix well with the modern classical/ambient/IDm themes. Nice work! (4.8 out of 5)
Environments 3 goes even further than the previous two installments. By this point, I’ve grown to crave upcoming releases in this series as they present newer material and breathe new life into their growing discography. Some fans had been growing discontent with the constant flow of “From the Archives” CDs, annoyed with the seemingly rehashed bits of older tracks that were used for live shows and background music with very few “newer” bits in between. And even for those fans who loved those compilations, this new series was still a wave of joy. This volume explores a somewhat darker place that none of us are afraid to dive into. There are a few clips appearing from “Lifeforms” “Dead Cities,” and “ISDN” era recordings but again, much like in volume 2, they are reconstructed and used in such a way that I’m actually happy to hear them again. As a whole, this album is quite engaging and moves us further into the future without losing too much of the past. Very enjoyable. (4.9 out of 5)
Environments 4 pushes us into more uncharted realms. Things are still somewhat ambient but there are clear excursions into psyche, jazz, IDM, industrial, downtempo and abstract. At times, the sound is fairly dark, dipping into “Dead Cities” levels of spookiness, even going so far as to sample small bits of material from that album. The tracks here are far less “song structured” and are more free form in the sense that they kind of go where they want to, feature the sounds they want and jam in their own way. It’s like the duo had improvised a little bit and had some fun. In that sense this feels a bit like some of the longer ISDN sessions (not the final edits that wound up on the LP but rather the extended flows that aired on the radio). And as a whole, I found this album to be more engaging than 2 or 3, and perhaps second only to volume 1. (4.9 out of 5)
Environments 5 came to my curtesy of my brother and is currently my first piece of FSOL vinyl that I own. This installment in the series features nothing but new material, a first. It also features collaborations between other artists, something the duo haven’t done expect for their psyche projects and to some extent on “Lifeforms.” Daniel Pemberton graces us with some stellar piano on three different tracks, Raven Bush treats us to some nice violin on track five, and Riz Masten (Neotropic) sings on track 4. The sound here is quite different from the previous installments, let alone the duo’s regular album work. There is a dip into light psyche elements at the start before things get experimental with ambient soundsscapes, piano works, some elements of Indian raga, modern classical and other bits. The feel here is quite different and maybe the best way to describe it is to take the most ambient bits from their psyche projects and fuse them with their fuse modern classical and experimental moments. The end result would be this LP. The theme of this album is supposed to be the space/time/dimension at the point following death and I’d say overall, the seamlessly mixed tracks reflect that. Excitement, exploration, isolation and recollection are what I’m picking up on. This is a nice piece of work! (4.9 out of 5)
Volumes 2 through 5 were released between 2009 and 2014. They are available from FSOLdigital as CDs, MP3s/FLAC and vinyl LPs (all vinyl was issued in 2014).