Clearly getting into the spirit of publishing, the FSOLDigital book series continued in 2017 with the first in a run of ten ‘zines’ titled Ramblings of a Madman. First mentioned on the FSOLBoard in July, there was speculation about whether this would be a continuation of the digital flash ‘book’ of the same name first seen on the official website as part of the run up to The Isness in 2001, or something new. Gaz posted an excerpt of the story ‘Frippertronic Sound of London and the Big Radio’ on Facebook, with images from the book, giving an idea that it would be more like a print version of the ’90s EBV website.
Release day came in November, and included a baffling range of options: The 96 page A6 zine plus digital download EP of five tracks, plus bundles including a unique one off A3 art print (“no two are the same”), and a hand screen-printed hoodie of the book’s cover. The hoodie and print were also available to purchase separately. Not a bad package for a zine. I ordered a print with this one, and received an A3 art proof of ISDN Series (1994), a peeling wall photograph from the ISDN booklet, described as “Ink on canvas. 9ft by 6ft (framed/signed by artist – FSOL). 3 exist.” I wonder who has those three. The print also includes a shot of Buggy overlaid with the wireframe Spikey.
The book, then. The cover features the original Accelerator font, with a shot of Vit. The collage style of the image – with a hand-typed date and time of 6/6/94 12:36 pm on the side – is a good idea of the general feel of the book. Expanding on previous books, here there are numerous photos and graphics from the ’90s up to the present, some familiar, many previously unseen, plenty overlaid with text, logos and other graphics, including the usual run of FSOLDigital-era emblems, circuit diagrams and other ephemera. Hand-written tracklists, rough poster designs, scans of fanmail, EMS adverts, photographs of customised gear, images of the various studios from throughout the years, several of Lysa Bartlett’s paintings, numerous press cuttings and countless other curios feature in the book. There’s way too much to go into, although there are a handful of particularly intriguing pages worth noting:
- Disc art for the then forthcoming From the Archives Vol. 9, confirming the album.
- A postcard from Buggy to Brian in 1989.
- A letter from Tangerine Dream’s management confirming they would be interested in remixing ‘Cascade’ (!).
- Hand-written credits for a huge number of Zeebox tracks that are either unreleased or have been renamed.
- Scans of The Heads Album, a tape by Brian’s first band from 1978.
Between all the imagery comes the main bulk of the book: stories. 12 tales by Gaz, several of which first appeared on the 1990s EBV website, some from the 2001 official store, one from the Dead Cities book, and a few new ones, all written in the same first-person style. They generally offer a wry, self-critical and pretty amusing look back on the band’s history, usually focusing on various disasters that happened. “Reality as foretold by a panoply of characters within the FSOL metaverse.”
Bugz. A story about Buggy’s importance in the band’s visual direction around the time they signed to Virgin. Includes the first appearance of the phrase “wide angle – fish eye – ANAL,” which appears to have reappeared many times throughout the decade. Followed by a photo of Buggy from a press article.
Translations. Story from the 2001 official store explaining the supposed origins of Papua New Guinea Translations.
The Ice Cream Man. Subtitled “From Brown Eye to Shite and Onions – Tales of A&Rse”. A particularly candid look at the band’s experiences with Rob Manley and his successor, the band’s A&R men at Virgin, and a potential post-Virgin label deal they backed away from.
The Early Years. From the EBV website, a tale about struggling to avoid new gear in the pre-Passion Music era.
Papa’s (got a brand) New Guinea (bag). Gaz gets incredibly angry at people misspelling the band’s most famous track.
Digital Networks. / I.S.D.N. Text from the ISDN artwork about the concepts and philosophies behind the first ISDN tour.
Cascade. From the EBV site. On the eve of ‘Cascade’s release, Brian is woken up by police suspecting him of attempting to assassinate the head of Marks & Spencer.
Touching the Audience. The only source of information about the Smart Systems Cornish PA, complete with photographs of the band with Hamish and Graham before the show.
Dead Dolphin. From the EBV site. Gaz muses on whether a photo of a dead dolphin represents the death of ambient music.
Frippertronic Sound of London and the Big Radio. A lengthy diatribe on how much of a pain in the arse the Robert Fripp collaboration on the band’s 1994 Essential Mix transmission was, from start to finish, including unseen photos of Fripp playing in Earthbeat.
Then Her Breasts Peel Away. A surreal fiction from the EBV website.
Absurdity of Life at 30mph / Driving. The fictional speeding camera story from the Dead Cities book.
The back cover features the familiar run of Herd Killing, curves and EBV logos.
The digital bonus EP series continues with a five track, 20 minute collection. No information is given on when these pieces were recorded, although it’s generally believed that they’re all new tracks rather than archives. The ‘Views’ series continues with ‘Viewed from the Outside’, while ‘Fracti’ and ‘Orrery’ are in the 2016/2017 bleepy synth style. Overall, the sound is very much what would be expected of new FSOL material in late ’17. There’s a gap between ‘The Whispering Masses’ and ‘Orrery’, otherwise all tracks are linked. The entire EP appears on the Music for 3 Books compilation. Unusually, Dan Pemberton is credited as co-writing the synth track ‘Orrery’, and not the piano piece in ‘Viewed from the Outside’.
Release date: 16th November 2017.
All tracks written by Dougans/Cobain.
‘Orrery’ written by Pemberton/Dougans/Cobain.
Images created by FSOL, Yage, Buggy G Riphead, Lysa Bartlett, Diane Harris, Peter Yorke, Alan Dougans.
Book published by EBV 2017.