By 2018, it was clear that the band were very comfortable dealing with Martin Boulton and Touched Music, with the label releasing countless FSOL and Humanoid compilation tracks and remixes, as well as broadcasting exclusive material on numerous Mixlr broadcasts.
“You are listening to a test transmission for a new form of information transfer. Not only are you receiving audio, but you are also receiving image and text data. Test transmission begin. Start programme. Please stand by for visual data one. Copyright has been retained in the sound and visual.”
Ok, so I’m not going to be overly nostalgic, especially given how much I’ve gushed over most of the Environments albums. In terms of track-by-track quality, as well as creation of visceral musical atmospheres, FSOL in the late ’10s are almost up there with FSOL of the ’90s, really. But the use of that spoken sample from the Kiss FM broadcasts and 1994 3D Headspace Tour is quite painful to hear, just as a reminder of how staggeringly cutting edge Brian and Gaz were in the early to mid ’90s, how they were pushing the ultra-media approach, radio and internet transmissions, predicting streaming, and doing so 20 years before it was commonplace, on a major label with hundreds of thousands of people at their mercy. I couldn’t tell you what is cutting edge in terms of broadcasting music in 2022, because it all seems to be done: an album can be completed and broadcast immediately over social media to millions of people, if the artist is well known enough. This is what the band were aiming to do in the ’90s, and it really makes me sad that they aren’t recognised for their forward thinking vision before this technology existed. And although I will never criticise Gaz for finding a path in his life that makes him happier, there’s always been a bit of a hole that FSOL could have filled as the first group to take on that online live streaming act in the early ’00s. An online stream of a mix to a few hundred listeners on a small DIY label in 2018 is a truly wonderful experience for fans, especially with Gaz giving daft commentary in the Mixlr room, and Brian providing me with info to pass on to the chat, but at the same time, the opening sample feels like this should have been something that bit more.
Cor, I’m gloomy tonight. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a fan of a group who are the most forward-thinking, visionary band of their time, with a major label budget behind them, and they end up simply being an exceptionally brilliant musical group without quite so many opportunities. Anyone else in this situation would still pale in comparison.
The show opens with a two hour long mix by FSOL. A hell of a gift for a free broadcast. The first track of the mix previews the forthcoming Yage 2019 release, an album that would have been at the pressing plant at the time. It’s followed by a piano, synth and violin piece, which opens with a few brief sounds from ‘Dreaming With the TV On’, and continues with the track’s vibe when the drums come in in the second half. Clearly a darker piece derived from the same session, it’s a real sign that at least some version of this track needs to be released on a proper album. The track is followed by a snippet of the “what about the forests” Silent Running speech from the 3D Headspace tour, followed by an EMS piece believed to be from the forthcoming Synthi A album Octagon Trees. More synth sounds and answerphone messages follow, before the mix heads back in time a little with 1996’s ‘Max’. The next unreleased track comes in the form of a dark hip-hoppish instrumental, which sounds unlike anything else in the band’s catalogue. After another Synthi A track, things revert to more answerphone messages, suggesting Brian had maybe been listening through old tapes at this point. Up next is the first appearance of ‘I Can’t Find You’, followed by ‘Fat Cat’. The mix of various eras of the band is something that’s only really happened in FSOLDigital broadcasts, and this is the first time a proper FSOL mix has contrasted new recordings with pieces from 25 years prior; for me, this is a bit weird, given my own perspective of each album having its own contained ‘world’. This is, no doubt, a ridiculous fan thing, however. After some unreleased, abstract pieces, ‘Dirty Shadows’ appears in full, before a couple more exclusive tracks, ‘You Will Forget About Me’ and ‘Organic Weapon’. Two new Yage tracks appear afterwards, both being more traditionally electronic than one might expect from the largely tribal-sounding Yage of the FSOLDigital era, followed by the now familiar University Challenge sample.
The second hour of the FSOL mix features plenty more exclusive tracks. Humanoid’s ‘Tiny Machine Birth’ appears for the first time here, as does FSOL’s ‘Optical Overspill’. Alternate versions of ‘Viewed from an Obscure Angle’ and ‘The Big Blue’ follow, the former feeling much more fleshed out than the album version, the latter a more electronic version, with synth arpeggios and stuttered electronic beats at the fore. A handful of still unreleased tracks appear in the mix, including a downtempo ambient breaks track, a complex IDM piece Gaz jokingly referred to in the chat as ‘Self Flagellation’, a cover of Kiss FM transmission favourite ‘The Last Day’ by Dif Juz (a fairly authentic cover, but not what one might have expected from the band in the early ’90s), several unknown environments, a 1992 trance/techno track, and a very creepy, ghostly piece for piano, record crackle and whistling.
Following the incredibly generous 135 minute FSOL mix, Martin threw in a few favourites, opening with a track totally unrelated to FSOL, followed by a run of recent FSOL tunes, and closing on a classic.
The 12th volume of the Electric Brain Storms series was known to be coming before this night, and I might have pre-emptively guessed that the hour long mix was EBS12, leading to recordings of the broadcast occasionally being labelled as including EBS12. Whoops.
There’s never been an official release of the FSOL mix, and undoubtedly several of the tracks will go unreleased and unknown forever. A copy has been uploaded to MixCloud in the intervening years.
00:00 FSOL Mix
-00:00 Transmission intro
-01:49 The People of Yage
-04:54 Dreaming With the TV On (Alt)
-20:25 Viewed from Trains
-21:43 Synthi A – Rivers of Occasion
-24:33 Unknown environment
-27:10 I Can’t Find You
-31:30 Fat Cat
-42:06 Dirty Shadows
-47:40 You Will Forget About Me
-49:01 Organic Weapon
-51:38 Vit environment
-52:05 Yage – Subtle Cause
-53:30 Yage – Across 82
-57:22 Unknown environment
-58:36 Electric Pastrol
-1:00:38 Smokin’ Japanese Babe
-1:02:35 Unknown environment
-1:03:50 Humanoid – Tiny Machine Birth
-1:06:27 Is This Real?
-1:06:41 Room 208
-1:10:10 Optical Overspill
-1:16:27 Viewed From an Obscure Angle (Alternate Version)
-1:18:58 The Big Blue (Alternate Version)
-1:24:44 Blackhill Transmitter – Five Twenty Seven
-1:25:35 Unknown (‘Self Flegelation’)
-1:29:44 The Last Day
-1:32:52 Unknown environment
-1:36:26 Unknown environment
-1:37:14 Sky Scraper
-1:46:15 Unknown environment
-1:50:12 Wait environment
-1:52:50 Unknown environment
-1:54:47 Drifting in and Out
-1:58:30 Humanoid – Spore
-2:04:14 Taken Leave of All Sense
-2:05:34 Symphony for HALia
-2:09:38 Glass (ISDN Show version)
2:15:06 L C 5 – Jumper
2:26:54 Dox 2
2:31:40 Sol A r Skies
2:35:43 Collapsed Structures
2:41:16 Without You it’s Meaningless
2:47:26 Cold Dark Field
2:49:11 My Kingdom Path 8
2:53:11 Papua New Guinea