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FM - Black Noise CD (album) cover




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4.11 | 158 ratings

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4 stars This is a pretty amazing album for a number of reasons. First and foremost – no guitars. Pretty unusual for what is basically a dressed-up power pop recording. This is accomplished largely thanks to Canadian wiz-guy Nash “the Slash”, who plays electric violin instead, accompanied by a variety of keyboards. Also, it isn’t often you hear of a modern music album that prominently features a mandolin and wasn’t put out by Amazing Blondel or Glass Hammer. This one is electric, and supplies a lot of the sounds that pass for guitar. Finally, there’s a lot of glockenspiel chiming throughout, which is something I would expect from Mostly Autumn or Kate Bush, but not a trio of Canadian artsy rock types who grew up on Rush and Saga (and probably a little Klaatu from the sounds of some of these tracks).

I vaguely remember a band called FM back in the seventies. I’m not sure if these are those guys, since I suspect there have been many forgotten bands with that name. In any case I never heard this one until it was released on CD a few years ago. Presumably there was some remastering or cleaning up of some sort, since the production is quite clean for a recording of that era. This isn’t progressive music really, but it probably would have passed as such in the early eighties when the bar was quite a bit lower, and I see from the band’s discography that it was reissued a few times during those days.

There is a great deal of embellished rhythm and percussion throughout, and many of the songs remind me loosely of other bands. The instrumental “Hours” for example sounds a little bit like Happy the Man but with violin added. The title track could pass for an eighties Saga song were it not for the vocals, which would never be mistaken for Michael Sadler. And “Journey” sounds a little bit like Orion the Hunter, an eighties offshoot of the band Boston.

The rest of the tracks are pretty original, with lots of varied percussion, extended instrumental passages, and great drum work. Stand-out tracks include “Slaughter In Robot Village”, “Dialing For Dharma”, and the title track.

I don’t know what happened to these guys, but it is a bit surprising they aren’t well known considering the quality of the music. I know “the Slash” left after this album and started a career appearing in out-of-the-way venues with his face wrapped up in surgical bandages and playing electronica and unusual art music. You can find samples of his stuff around the web, although I’m not sure he ever appeared as a regular member of any other bands.

This is much closer to art rock than anything else, and has a lot of late seventies feel to the keyboards. These guys were a bit ahead of their time in that respect. There’s no one thing that stands out as truly exceptional, except maybe the fact they managed to put together forty minutes of excellent rock music without ever touching an electric guitar. That’s a feat in itself. But the total package is a little better than very good, and I doubt if too many people would be disappointed if they picked this record up. So four stars is a good rating, and appropriate. Enjoy.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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