Home > Music > Future Sound of London – Dead Cities (1996)

Future Sound of London – Dead Cities (1996)

folderSo I’ve written on the British EDM boom of the early-mid ’90s on several occasions. This may count, although if it does, it’s pretty late in the movement. Given the content of this blog, I’m no stranger to people carving out artistic niches in the music industry to varying levels of commercial success, but Dead Cities is kind of a weird recording, even in the context of previous FSOL albums – half ambient with excursions into frantic breakbeats and whatever “We Have Explosive” is (besides very much of its time; alternatively, besides a grammatically incorrect phrase).

If you got the impression that this record is fairly varied in terms of sound and approach, you guessed right; Dead Cities is a veritable carnivalscape. You can distinguish to a degree between the darker first half and arguably more experimental second half, but even within each side, mood swings and asides are the norm. If there’s one thing that ties the varied material on Dead Cities together, it’s definitely the rhythm section, although ironically it does so by constantly changing and tripping over itself and generally not being composed of basic four-on-the-floor beats. The percussion ends up very prominent in the songs, which makes for an interesting counterpart to some of FSOL’s previous work (Lifeforms, which wasn’t particularly beat and percussion oriented). I can’t say whether or not this would’ve continued on previous releases since my ability to decipher their career trajectory falls off after this.

What I’ve seen of discussion on this album tends to call it “post-apocalyptic”, generally referencing the first few tracks. As a primarily instrumental album (with some vocal textures), Dead Cities doesn’t exactly respond to this classification, but I can hear what people might be referring to. I consulted my own opinions on this – they told me the sheer quantity of lighter content and mood on here probably places this centuries after any cataclysmic events and at best puts the listener they belong to in the mindset of decaying ruins and archaeology. Whether or not this matches the authors’ intent is beyond me. I could do some research – for instance, I could look at the artbook that came with some editions of the album, but I don’t think that would negate any previous mental imagery.

Anyways, music possibly written to complement artistic installations is one thing, but in the absence of such installations, it has to be judged on its own. Dead Cities has taken much time to analyze and dissect on a conceptual level at least, and I’m of the opinion that music has to have some merit if allowed such contemplation. That’s the most you’ll get out of me, suckers! Now if only the internet had enough of a physical metaphor that I could jump out of a window and magically fly away…

Highlights: “We Have Explosive”, “Quagmire” (giggity), “Glass”


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