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Sensations' Fix - Flying Tapes CD (album) cover

FLYING TAPES

Sensations' Fix

 

Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.02 | 12 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Sensations' Fix never quite reached the same level of acclaim enjoyed by fellow Italian Prog rockers PFM, Banco, or Le Orme (to name only a few), but their relative obscurity within the greater Prog pantheon might simply be a matter of underexposure: Italy was a hothouse of musical creativity in the 1970s, and during their all-too brief heyday the Fix released something less than a handful of recordings, few of them outside their native country and none following the standard classical/symphonic template then in vogue.

Clearly here's a band in desperate need of a belated reappraisal, and this 1978 "best of" compilation is, without question, the best place to start. For newcomers the album provides a perfect introduction to the distinctive Fix sound, with a fairly representative selection of tracks drawn from each of their five previous albums, all released between 1974 and 1977. And for already confirmed fans it offers the added bonus of being entirely remixed, dramatically eliminating the low-tech, kitchen sink sound of the original home-produced LPs.

Briefly: Sensations' Fix was a space-rock trio (later a quartet) led by ace guitarist Franco Falsini, an unabashed admirer of Robert Fripp, to whom he dedicated the 1974 FRAGMENTS OF LIGHT LP, in a note on the front cover reassuring the Crimson King that the Heavenly Music Corporation was alive and well outside Florence, Italy, where the band had its home at the time. But unlike other ardent Frippheads (step forward, Richard Pinhas) Falsini developed a guitar style uniquely and recognizably his own, anticipating (in primitive form, but with a similar battery of filters, flangers, and atmospheric synthesizers) the same cosmic terrain that groups like Ozric Tentacles would be exploring a generation later.

Which may explain why their music holds up so well after all these years.

The first two tracks on FLYING TAPES are both from the aforementioned FRAGMENTS OF LIGHT, including the quintessential Music Is Painting In The Air, in style and title perhaps the best definition of the Sensations' Fix (and, by extension, the greater Prog Rock) philosophy. Next, from the (likewise) 1974 album PORTABLE MADNESS, are Leave My Chemistry Alone and Strange About The Hands, a pair of tracks revisited in song form on later LPs but presented here in dynamic remixes (re-recordings?) of their original instrumental arrangements. It's been probably 20 years since I last heard either of those first two early '70s LPs, but nothing about them stands out in memory as having anywhere near this much strength and vigor.

Side One of FLYING TAPES concludes with Cold Nose Story, the title track of a now rare 1975 Franco Falsini solo album, written as the soundtrack to a movie (directed by Filippo Milani) about cocaine addiction. Gentle guitar arpeggios float over a bed of ominous bass synthesizers, with Falsini's dreamlike vocals drifting somewhere in the middle distance.

Anyone still familiar with the 1976 album FINEST FINGER probably won't recognize the version of Boat Of Madness introduced here on the flipside of FLYING TAPES. The rhythm section is, as elsewhere, pushed front and center in the mix, and the remodeled song continues far beyond the point where the original version faded out in a wash of percolating synths, adding another trademark Falsini solo before the whole band kicks in with a final, convulsive coda.

The 1977 album VISIONS FUGITIVES was an oddity, recorded outside Italy (in California!) and released, on the All Ears label, only in the USA. Two more instrumentals have been excerpted here: Fleetwood Tri L-Track and Warped Notions Of A Practical Joke (such playful track list prolixity was a Sensations' Fix hallmark). The former is a brief, semi- psychedelic interlude of tentative guitars and treated bass; the latter is an uncharacteristically upbeat rocker, with a curious bayou vibe in the acoustic guitar intro, straight from the swamps of the lower Mississippi delta.

The album ends with Faux Batard, the closest thing in this collection to a traditional song, as well as the nearest in sound to the original version, from the 1977 BOXES PARADISE LP.

After recording five albums in a span of three years the band was at a creative peak when FLYING TAPES was released in 1978. Of course by then, for most Prog Rock musicians, the writing was already on the wall, scratched in angry day-glo punk calligraphy (Mene-Mene- Tekel-Uparsin-Anarchy-in-the-UK?) Artists like Falsini and company were marginalized almost overnight, and many a worthwhile recording, including this collection, barely saw the light of day before disappearing into undeserved, premature obscurity.

Sadly, only one of their original albums has, to date, been rescued from vinyl and re-issued on compact disc: the early FRAGMENTS OF LIGHT. I would nominate FLYING TAPES as the ideal candidate for an overdue digital transfer, but until then you'll have to trust in luck, legwork, and good old fashioned serendipity to find yourself a copy. Good hunting.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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