Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms

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  • There's a lot of silliness in the hippie rave music of the mid-'90s. This was a time, after all, when a huge number of people genuinely believed that the constant intake of party drugs was putting them in touch with alien intelligences, that raving was creating a global brain that would beam signals of enlightenment back and forth through time, and that the internet would be a force for peace and wellbeing. It wasn't all patchouli-smelling people with clip-on dreadlocks either—not by a long shot. The cross-cultural melting pot of rave circa '89-'92 had taken Future Sound Of London's "Papua New Guinea" to heart. By 1994, when Future Sound Of London released Lifeforms, the overlap between sub-scenes was still substantial. Just look at '94 footage from Megadog or Megatripolis, the UK hubs of psychedelic voyaging. Far from being crusty-fests, you'll see every flavour of raver partying among the giant inflatable aliens, with everyone from Carl Cox to Autechre to junglists like DJ Rap and Nicky Blackmarket on the lineups. It's into that milieu that Lifeforms emerged. FSOL's second full-length sweats LSD, 2CB, DMT and psilocybin from every pore, from the "woooo we're in the future now" artwork to the swooshes, swoops, chirps and gurgles that sprout off every beat. It is 100% a record for meeting seven-dimensional alien entities to. It is for long sections completely beatless, but it's not just a "home listening" album. There's plenty there that's eminently playable for DJs now, from the Red Planet techno throb of the title track to the very-nearly-jungle break cutups in "Life Form Ends," which could easily be slipped into a set alongside, say, Special Request. Even the downtempo and ambient tracks are grandiose in scale, radiating MDMA heat. This is not chill-out music in the sense of putting your feet up and unwinding—it's music for chill-out rooms, which at this time were buzzing environments covered in weird projections and immersive sound pumped out of systems every bit as powerful as those for the dance floor. There's a breathlessness and implied energy at all points—even the most perfectly zero-gravity tracks, like "Eggshell," carry a sense of bodies in motion, of a groove about to restart. There is silliness here. The occasional flute / percussion combinations seem awkwardly exotic now. Some of the slower, more chugging beats are very much of their time: at these points a certain lack of funk starts to show. There is a lot of groove elsewhere, though. The Red Planet comparison wasn't plucked out of nowhere—there is a very healthy overlap here with Detroit's own musical space programme. This isn't the greatest cosmic-voyaging album of its era: Warp's Artificial Intelligence II compilation and Global Communication's 76:14 just edge it for eyes-rolled-back '94 mind-melting. But it is still absolutely an encapsulation of the time, and the lushness and richness of texture have echoed through everything from the more soulful jungle of that same year, all the way down to the new ambient spaces like London's New Atlantis and even Berghain's Halle. And despite its hippie preposterousness, Lifeforms is still a blissful listen.
  • Tracklist
      01. Cascade 02. Ill Flower 03. Flak 04. Bird Wings 05. Dead Skin Cells 06. Lifeforms 07. Eggshell 08. Among Myselves 09. Domain 10. Spineless Jelly 11. Interstat 12. Vertical Pig 13. Cerebral 14. Life Form Ends 15. Vit 16. Omnipresence 17. Room 208 18. Elaborate Burn 19. Little Brother