FSOL Resurfaces With 'The Isness'

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Future Sound of London (FSOL) -- Brian Dougans and Gaz Cobain -- returns to the recording world for the first time in six years with "The Isness." It arrives Aug. 13 via Hypnotic/Cleopatra and follows 1996's "Dead Cities."

Since FSOL's relationship with Virgin U.K. (Astralwerks in the U.S.) officially dissolved last year, "The Isness" marks a new chapter in the duo's history. At the same time, the new disc is also a triumph and progression for two very different partners tempestuously bonded by a very special project.

In 1997, Cobain went to India to explore both the limits of his personality and physiology, attempting to find the source of a mysterious ailment that was eventually attributed to the mercury fillings in his mouth.

The more reclusive Dougans, who rarely consents to interviews, remained in London and improved his studio craft, researching new software and recording techniques. When Cobain returned the following year, he shocked Dougans by withdrawing from the studio they had created together to write songs at home on his guitar.

Rather than let it discourage him from the partnership, Dougans decided to turn Cobain's songs into acoustic and electronic collaborations. But, in signature fashion, Cobain was thinking along slightly different lines.

"Gaz had more grandiose ideas, which involved orchestras, drummers, bass players, sitar players, and choirs," Dougans recalls of the new album's genesis. By the time the four-years-in-the-making set was complete, the contributors were many, ranging from former Captain Beefheart guitarist Gary Lucas to the curiously modern Electric Gospel Choir to '60s teen idol Donovan.

"Musicians came, jammed, and then left," Dougans offers. "Basically, all the musicians were given a free hand to jam and do what they wanted. Improvisation was key. We then took everything that had been done and sifted through it like we were rummaging around a second-hand shop, piecing it all together to create the maddest costume you've ever worn. From simple acoustic guitar and vocal tracks, we built the album up to monstrous 80-track layers of skyscraper sound."

The retro, prog-rock vibe that pervades "The Isness" -- at times obscuring the intricate modern digital production that was involved -- has already drawn criticism from some electronic disciples who were hoping for something more in line with the pair's earlier material.

Along with the new album, Cleopatra will simultaneously release "Papua New Guinea Translations" (featuring new FSOL remixes of the duo's 1992 hit "Papua New Guinea") and a reissue of the act's debut album, 1992's "Accelerator." The re-release of "Accelerator" includes a bonus CD featuring remixes of "Papua New Guinea" by Satoshi Tomiie, Blue States, Hybrid, and Andrew Weatherall.

Excerpted from the Aug. 3, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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