The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom Re-Imagined

After 2015, Gaz began to be a little quieter on the FSOL front, with occasional comments rather than thoughtful rants (Listening Beyond the Head Chakra was in full flow by this point, meaning he was probably in a slightly different headspace), but one thing he did mention in 2017 was that the band were working on some new versions of ‘My Kingdom‘. This was actually a little surprising: with the amount of archived material being released and updated in the previous ten years, why were they going out of their way to mine even more of the past? Nothing was heard for a while afterwards, until the Record Store Day 2018 announcements.

“Originally reached no.13 in the UK charts in 1996 – taken from the top 30 album Dead Cities, loosely based on ‘Rachel’s Song’ from Blade Runner by Vangelis. Now 22 years later the group have recreated the track in 8 new compositions seamlessly flowing together the journey travels from ambient rock to a land of electronica.”

With so many release series ongoing at the point – Environments, From the Archives, Calendar Albums, Ramblings of a Madman books and EPs – one would think they were creatively satisfied. But no, now it was time to introduce a new series: re-recordings. There has been resistance from some fans about these releases – especially in that morass of bullshit that is the Facebook comment section – of the ‘stop rehashing the past and do something new’ category, but then they’ve continued to receive this criticism for the Environments series, even in the face of everything since 2014 being entirely new recordings. But, content aside, there are a couple of very good reasons for these releases.

Firstly, Record Store Day is still largely based around reissues, of favourites and rarities, often with novelty formats like coloured vinyl. Brian and Gaz could have easily spoken to Universal about reissuing the 1996 ‘My Kingdom‘ 12″, or just reissued an out of print FSOLDigital release, rinsing collectors’ pockets and clogging up pressing plants with totally unnecessary vinyl. This way, however, they get to reissue an old release and put out new music at the same time. Anybody not interested in revisiting an old track can simply ignore these releases, while anybody who fancies them ends up with 40-50 minutes of completely new music off the back of what would otherwise be a basic reissue.

Secondly, re-recording a track means the band has a version of which they retain the copyright. With the material released on Virgin, Universal own all the recordings, and thus the band have little say in what happens with them; these re-recordings, however, are newly created out of the Virgin contract, and thus belong to the band or anyone they want to license them to. That way, if anybody approaches the band to license ‘My Kingdom’ for use on a compilation or TV show, for example, they can be offered the re-recording, and if they accept, the band get the money from it. They’re not the only group to do it – famously, Taylor Swift is currently midway through re-recording every one of her first six albums, after the rights were sold to a label she dislikes – and this isn’t even the first time FSOL have done it.

Thirdly, from a creative perspective, revisiting old material can simply be enjoyable. It may have started out as a simple anniversary release, but Papua New Guinea Translations found the band working in similar territory, and showing how far a piece can change when re-approaching it in a very different era.

Unlike with ‘Mountain Goat (2014)’, there are a few unavoidable changes here. For the original ‘My Kingdom’, Virgin obtained the rights to use Morricone and Vangelis samples through payment, and, despite increasingly strong sales, this is beyond the financial abilities of FSOLDigital. Not a bit issue for the flute part, which appears in ‘Path 7’ re-recorded using a sample. The vocals, however, are performed by Rebecca Caine. Given her appearance on ‘Everyone in the World is Doing Something Without Me‘, itself a close cousin of ‘My Kingdom’, it’s very likely that she was brought in in 1996 to record her own take on the vocal as a backup in case the Vangelis sample couldn’t be cleared. Her vocal is pitched at a natural level, unlike the slowed down Mary Hopkin sample in the original, which always feels just a little bit wrong to me. Not that it sounds bad in any sense, but when you’ve heard a track regularly for 22 years, and a version of said track is your favourite piece of music of all time, it’s incredibly hard to hear such a radical difference without it jarring.

There are three new ‘paths’ of ‘My Kingdom’ on the release – why they’re listed as ‘paths’, rather than ‘parts’ as on the original single, remains unknown – which start out in fairly straight-forward territory, before moving away; ‘Path 9’ only retains the original’s drum loop. As for ‘Path 6’, or ‘Part 6’… who knows. I’ve been reliably informed that it does exist. Maybe it’ll turn up on a future Environment, or a re-recording of Dead Cities in full. The remaining tracks are only tangentially linked: ‘Transient Empires’, ‘Sound Shadow’ and ‘Implanted Memories’ all feel like parts of one longer piece, itself linked to ‘Path 8’, ‘Collapsed Structures’ features the Rebecca Caine vocal, and ‘Old Empire’ features the breathy synth sound from ‘My Kingdom’; ‘Populate’ and ‘Water Garden’ are, to these ears, entirely new pieces.

As with the previous year’s Archived : Environmental : Views, a CD edition featuring two bonus tracks followed the vinyl on general release, allowing everyone to grab a copy, especially those of us who prefer our gapless FSOL releases to remain gapless. As usual, the FSOLDigital version shipped three weeks before everywhere else.

The cover inverts the original, by mirroring the demolished bus station around its outer edge rather than the inner, making it jut out rather than work as an open space. I’m not sure if it’s just my ‘it’s not the original!’ prejudice again, but I have a feel this one really just doesn’t work quite as well. Maybe it’s having the two wall sections together that makes it look more obviously mirrored; it took me a long time to realise that the original cover wasn’t actually just one real building. Over this, the newly modelled Spikey floats, in his first appearance on a record cover. This version is designed by Noel Ram, aka Leon Mar, aka Oil, long-time friend and collaborator, and of course remixer of the original single’s ‘Part 2‘. The back cover features spikey floating in front of some tower blocks; an alternate version of this shot features as the centrefold image in the CD booklet. An image of two Spikeys floating down the corridor of a temple features inside, as well as on the vinyl’s inner sleeve. The rest of the CD booklet features several of these images, as well as photos of Brian and Gaz, under a very strange filter that makes them look a little like AI generated art; the CD features a mirrored photo of Sheuneen with a similar effect, and under the CD is the original mirrored bus station with the effect. The style is incredibly difficult to describe, both digitally glitchy and organic at the same time, and the images were created by Lysa Bartlett. Similarly, Alan Dougans is once again credited with photography, continuing Buggy’s vastly reduced role in the band’s album art since 2016. Side A of the final features part of the Spikey and cityscape image, with side B including tracklist and credits, including ‘My Kingdom’ being credited to Dougans / Cobain / Morricone / Vangelis, a credit not seen elsewhere. Digitana, EMS and HALia are all mentioned in the credits. The run of five logos seen on recent releases – curves, hexagon, Earthbeat, Herd Killing, globules – is on the back cover, CD booklet and side B label, with the Electronic Brain Violence logo on the rear of both editions; the CD itself features the Herd Killing, curves and EBV logos. FSOLDigital isn’t mentioned anywhere on the artwork at all, leading to EBV being listed as the record label on the vinyl’s Discogs entry. EBV isn’t the label, it’s FSOLDigital, but then Discogs submissions guidelines are weird. And, hurray, the spine matches with the previous four releases!

My Kingdom Re-Imagined was the first physical Future Sound of London release I was genuinely disappointed with on first listen since first trying to get my head around their stuff in the ’90s. I just couldn’t get my head around the contrast between the chunky trip-hop of the original, and the mixture of organic, Views-esque ambience and Environment Six-style bleepy IDM, with the ’90s elements just sounding so out of place among the newer elements. The record’s totally different atmosphere to the original single was also difficult to parse at first. To be honest, it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve begun to realise how strong a work it is. The more gentle, organic sound actually makes it feel like a successor to Environments 3, if anything: if that album is the sound of the city in ruins, this is its rebirth. A few things helped with my enjoyment of it, including the realisation that ‘Transient Empires’, ‘Sound Shadow’ and ‘Implanted Memories’ are all based around the same sounds, which alone makes it feel a lot more coherent as a release. It also helps that I was finally able to approach it hoping for a new sonic world, rather than expecting a continuation of the 1996 sound.

It’s an interesting release in that it doesn’t quite feel like either an EP or an album. The 12″ release runs to a mere 34 minutes, shorter than some of the band’s singles, and definitely feels more along those lines, while the ten track CD edition, at 42 minutes, is more album-like in length, running to only a few minutes shorter than some of the FSOLDigital era albums. It’s very likely that the band aren’t as anal about this sort of stuff as some of us are, though. Ultimately, it’s a lovely selection of tracks, and a really great way to make a humdrum Record Store Day reissue feel a lot more exciting.

Release date: 21st April 2018 (LP), 4th May 2018 (CD).

12″ (LPRSDTOT73)
A1. My Kingdom – Path 7
A2. Transient Empires
A3. Collapsed Structures
A4. Sound Shadow
B1. My Kingdom – Path 8
B2. Implanted Memories
B3. My Kingdom – Path 9
B4. Populate

CD (CDTOT 73) / Digital download
1. My Kingdom – Path 7
2. Transient Empires
3. Collapsed Structures
4. Sound Shadow
5. My Kingdom – Path 8
6. Implanted Memories
7. My Kingdom – Path 9
8. Populate
9. Water Garden
10. Old Empire

Written by Dougans/Cobain.
‘My Kingdom’ written by Dougans/Cobain/Morricone/Vangelis (labels).
Produced by The Future Sound of London.
Engineered by Yage.
Guitar sample – Ozric Tentacles from Pungent Effulgent.
Drums – Richie Thomas ‘caught with the DAT running’.
Vocals – Rebecca Caine.
Image construction – Buggy G Riphead/Lysa Bartlett.
Photography – Alan Dougans – Buggy G Riphead.
3D render – Anitomic London.
‘My Kingdom’ published by Sony Music Publishing/Warner Chappell/EMI United Partnership.
Other tracks published by FutureSong Publishing.
FSOL use Digitana Electronics / EMS / Halia synthesis.

Purchase from Bandcamp.
Purchase from FSOLDigital.

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