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FM Black Noise album cover
4.11 | 163 ratings | 28 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1977

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Phasors On Stun (3:49)
2. One O'clock Tomorrow (6:05)
3. Hours (2:36)
4. Journey (4:41)
5. Dialing For Dharma (3:15)
6. Slaughter In Robot Village (5:02)
7. Aldeberan (5:02)
8. Black Noise (9:56)

Total time 40:26

Bonus tracks on 2014 CD remaster:
9. Phasors On Stun (Live *) (8:32)
10. Black Noise (Live *) (13:48)

* Recorded at Larry's Hideaway, Toronto, 1977

Line-up / Musicians

- Cameron Hawkins / lead vocals, piano, synths (Minimoog, Micromoog, Elka), bass, sequencer
- Jeff "Nash the Slash" Plewman / electric violin, electric mandolin, glockenspiel, vocals & Fx
- Martin Deller / drums, percussion, Arp 2500 synthesizer

Releases information

Artwork: Bob Krol with James Cook (design)

LP Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ‎- LM 455 (1977, Canada)
LP Passport Records ‎- 9167-9831 (1978, Canada) New cover art
LP Conveyor ‎- CVX905703 (2014, Canada) Remastered by Peter Moore

CD Now See Hear - NSBDD-7007 (1993, Canada) Remastered by Cameron Hawkins from vinyl
CD Esoteric Recordings ‎- ECLEC2376 (2013, UK) Remastered by Ben Wiseman
CD Conveyor ‎- CVX905702 (2014, Canada) Remastered by Peter Moore with 2 bonus Live tracks

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FM Black Noise ratings distribution

(163 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

FM Black Noise reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by loserboy
5 stars This is a recording which I have always loved and had in my collection, but is too often forgotten. This is not the British band, but the Canadian one! Great analog synths surrounded by electric violin, mandolin and awesome drumming. This is rich and full of amazing musicianship (very tasty!!). FM were a classic prog act and unfortunately are not that well known outside of Canada. Nash the Slash is a classic and brings a dark forboding style to this music.
Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Among the Toronto-based group that rang prog to our ears ( at least a bit) were Rush, Triumph, Goddo for the trios, then came Max Webster as a quartet and Saga as a quintet (even though they were the poppier-sounding), but the scene wouldn't have been complete without that other trio FM, with its strange leader Nash The Slash on electric violin, but seconded by singer and bassist/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins and drummer Martin Deller. Their sound was quite special, somehow very FM-wise, but in another manner not that radio-friendly also with their songs that didn't respect the format. This album is one of those from my early tastes, that you'd expect to like only because of nostalgia, but no, looking at it with as neutral eyes (as I can possibly), the album holds its own some almost 30 years after..

Right from the first notes of Phasors On Stun (what a title..), you just know you're onto something special, with that slick sound (including a clear loud vocal by Hawkins) , but the song goes straight to the point after a very adventurous start. It is followed by the Saga-esque One O'Clock Tomorrow (a quiet synth and glockenspiel affair) then with a pleasant fast-paced piano-dominated short instrumental (Deller-penned) Hours and finally the Hawkins-penned (and the album's weakest point) Journey returning to the usual song format, sounding a bit like later days' Utopia. Funnily enough by looking at the writing credits, you can feel that Nash was more in phase with Deller than with Hawkins

The flipside starts much differently on a sequencing rhythm basing the instrumental Dialing For Dharma, one that will indicate the feeling is quite different this side of the black hole. Again the Deller-penned Slaughter In Robot Village is much closer to Nash spirit (than Hawkins), this instrumental (taking almost a 80's Rush overtones - Deller was drum rolling ala Peart - well before their compatriots would.. ) that would remain a fabulous highlight in the album. But on this flipside, the highlights are just bouncing one on another with the fantastic Aldebaran (a star), only to soar like an eagle on the 9-minutes title track where the group finally explodes and shines in its utmost brilliance (had they done three of these on this album, this would rank in the top 10 of the site), and let it rip on wildly, then gliding from black hole to galaxies, and also the only track where Nash and Cameron meet (lyrics excepted naturally).

With a stunning artwork and a rather unforgettable logo, it seemed that FM was going straight for the top after this album and hit the jackpot with their second , but alas, past the Direct-To-Disc Ep, Nash the Slash would leave the trio to follow his very strange solo career (my guess is mostly a dispute between Hawkins's straight songs and Nash's wish to expand the scope); where he would often appear as a mummy in fun videoclips in the early 80's, making the early days of Canadian all-music TV chain MuchMusic, a fun alternative to MTV, already in its never-ending spiral. But FM was broken in its lan to fame and although a great guitarist/violinist Ben Mink would come to fill NTS's shoes aptly, the group's momentum had passed and although they would soldier on bravely for years, they'd never get close again Hopefully one day their superb debut album will get a reissue containing the now (very?) rare-DTD Ep tracks, which would just encapsulate the band's first chapter, and let us see how mighty they'd come close. Surely Rush listened to this album many times when they morphed their style after Moving Pictures and just for that, you can guess that Black Noise was a few years ahead of its time. .

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I found this disc on a venders table at Cal-Prog for $10.00. Remembering some of the reviews I'd read, I was intrigued. A solid 4 stars.... but in desperate need of some remastering, mainly the drum tracks, they don't hold up well at a high volume.

Musically, I find it sounding as though it was recorded by a supergroup of 70's icons; Tony Banks tasteful keyboards, Eddie Jobson's violin, Pierre Morlien (on loan from Gong & Hillage) playing drums and Geddy Lee's bass (when he played a Rickenbacker) pumping the music along. Vocally, I'm kind of lost on a comparison, soft and delicate, but not as highly pitched as Jon Anderson.

The vocals, however, are not what make this a great album. I'd have to credit the fine trade-offs between keyboard and violin that swing very naturally. This could have been a very solid instrumental album. Strong melodies keep your ear tuned in, good driving music.

Lyrically, it's very "stuck in the space travel" genre and somewhat simplistic. The lyrics are the filler between the solos and they serve their purpose.

I would put this album in a multi-disc player with Hillage "Fish Rising" and U.K. "U.K." Stylistically compatable.

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is the first record from FM. It is their most progressive one! This record reminds me many progressive artists, although FM is absolutely unique, since Nash the Slash brilliantly uses electric mandolin and electric violin: the electric mandolin brilliantly replaces the electric guitars, which I am still not convinced they are not present on this record. The masked musician plays charming & delicate glockenspiel melodies too. The keyboards are very varied and modern for the year: there are excellent moog solos, a bit like Anyone's Daughter (Adonis) and Camel circa "Moonmadness". The drums are EXCELLENT, never dull: there is an impressive short drum solo. The OUTSTANDING lead & backing vocals are absolutely catchy, and they have nothing to envy from the Yes band. The less catchy "Black Noise" track, a bit more experimental, has some good floating New Age and techno keyboards reminding a mellow part on the IQ's "Tales from the lush attic" album, and it has a really killer bass sound a la Chris Squire. The bass, violins and drums on "Slaughter in the robot village" have some PFM influences, and the keyboards sound a bit like ELP or Triumvirat. The intro of "Aldeberan" sounds a bit like Alan Parson's "Sirius". This progressive album is fer sure among the best ones of 1977.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by slipperman
4 stars 'Black Noise' remains the album most representative of FM, as it nestles into a comfortable space incorporating lighter, shorter songs ("Phasors On Stun", "Journey") and displays of the epic and cosmic ("One O'Clock Tomorrow", "Aldeberan", "Black Noise"). There's a nice balance between instrumentals (including "Slaughter In Robot Village", which is indeed as good as the title suggests!) and vocal tracks. Nash The Slash's violin work is celestial, a sound that helps take the listener beyond the tedium of daily life. Enhanced by Cameron Hawkins' superb and dominant synth work, this stuff is lush, layered, spacey prog that remains smooth and focused, never moving toward the chaotic (like, say, prime King Crimson or Van Der Graaf Generator). It dwells in a similar sonic sphere as Genesis' 'And Then There Were Three' and Rush around the time of 'Signals' and 'Grace Under Pressure'. In fact, the title track, a wonderful diary of the ups-and-downs of city life, echoes the lyric of Rush's "The Camera Eye". I'm not suggesting Rush used the 'Black Noise' title track as inspiration for "The Camera Eye", I'm just pointing it out considering the parallels between the two bands: both Canadian, both trios, both prog...even Nash The Slash's successor Ben Mink played on Rush's "Losing It".

Always exciting, full of life and activity, 'Black Noise' is a highly enjoyable album that twists symphonic, jazz-rock and artrock traits together into one of the best prog albums of the late '70s.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars If you lived in the Toronto area in the late seventies you couldn't help but know who FM were. And Nash The Slash garnered a name for himself as well when he went solo, performing on stage with his violin in that mummy costume was quite a a sight.

"Phasers On Stun" is such an ear pleasing song. Opening with synths and drums before we hear those vocals that are just right. Great tune ! There are parts where the synths sound like phasers firing off. This song sounds just as good as it did when it was played on the radio back those many years ago. "One O'clock Tomorrow" features two of the guys playing synths as well as Nash on violin providing a fairly light melody until the drums come in, and then it sounds fantastic ! "Hours" is an instrumental of drums, violin and synths with a really good drum solo. The violin play is excellent.

"Journey" is a heavier uptempo song with drums and synths leading the way. The vocals almost give this song a British feel to it, and many have mistaken FM for a British band over the years. "Dialing For Dharma" is a synth, drum driven instrumental,with violin slashing in and out of the soundscape. "Slaughter In Robot Village" is another instrumental with an experimental intro that leads to a beautiful melody of violin and drums. Some bass and synths are added as well. "Aldebaran" is another great sounding tune. They just keep on coming folks, as the synths here remind me of "Phasers On Stun" and then the vocals and drums come in. "Black Noise" features tribal like drumming in perhaps the most difficult song to get into.

It's hard to believe that there is no lead guitar on this record, but I sure didn't miss it. I guarantee you will like this album. Check it out.

Review by ClemofNazareth
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.


Review by progrules
4 stars If I have to name one aspect about this album by FM: originality. I mean what other band has an electric violin in their line up ? But that's not all of course. This is a very enjoyable, almost accessable album, lasting only 40 minutes unfortunately. But it's logic on the other hand. It was made in the time of the vinyl and that meant usually 45 minutes tops. But those 40 minutes are very much Ok. It starts with a smooth Phasors on stun, a very compact song. Going on with One O' clock tomorrow, little more progressive as is the rest of the album. Each song is very different, also a great achievement. Great soundeffects too (Aldeberan, Black Noise).

So since I've always enjoyed it, the many times I listened to this album: 4 stars.

Review by kenethlevine
4 stars I remember hearing this for the first time at the end of 1978, at a time when prog of any type was in short supply on the airwaves. The song "Phasors on Stun" combined the energetic elements of modern pop music with the dazzling instrumental and compositional prowess of progressive rock, and seemed to me the antidote for music's malaise at the time. Well, in the end, the Canadian band couldn't even save themselves, but they did produce a highly electronic yet emotive album that sounds fresh even today. This may be partly because of unconventional instrumentation like electric violin and mandolin, or just because the space age formula was ahead of its time to begin with.

If "Phasors on Stun" was the tire-kick that we needed, the album's other book-end, the sprawling and menacing title track, proves that FM was not short on substance either. The song drips Crimson-esque darkness but the violins are much more soaring and uplifting in effective contrast to the dark tone. FM was blessed with not only superb timing and melodic skill, but also excellent vocal performances from Cameron Hawkins. Other fine tracks included "Journey" and "Aldeberan". The pervading optimism and themes of space exploration remind me of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, independent of any song title reference. "Hours" is the best of the instrumentals with its slightly jazzy electric violin groove and succinct statement.

It's not all great. The poorly executed shifts of "One o'clock tomorrow" ruin what could have been another standout, while "Slaughter in Robot Village" and "Dialing for Dharma" seem to be the sort of music that was closing in on us like converging walls by the early 1980s. Who needed a head start on that? Still, this early FM album is a great deal better than your regular white noise machine, and just about as good as it got as the decade drew to a close. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars FMs debut album Black Noise is a very good symphonic prog rock album. If you like albums like Permanent Waves and Moving Pictures from Rush or some of Sagas early albums or especially UKs albums Black Noise needs to be in your record collection. FM has their own sound though so dont write them off as a clone in fact Black Noise came one year before UKs debut which it has many similarities to so whos copying who ?

Black Noise is a very melodic album and there are lots of synth and sequencer layers in the songs. The album has an unmistakable eighties flavour to it that is also due to the AOR influenced vocals in a song like Phasors on stun. I dont particularly like the vocals in this song but fortunately they are much better in some of the other songs. The vocals are not that dominant though and Black Noise has lots of long instrumental parts without vocals. Nash the Slash ( which sounds like a bad name from a horror movie like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Friday the 13th) also plays some electric violin parts that are very beautiful. In fact the whole album reeks of class both in the compositions and in the playing.

As mentioned the musicians are really good. Drummer Martin Deller who also plays the Arp 2500 synthesizers on Black Noise is a very skillful drummer with lots of innovative ideas. Cameron Hawkins who sings, plays bass, piano and synths are also a really good musician even though his voice isnt very distinct. Nash the Slash who plays electric violin, elelectric mandolin, glockenspiel and sings is also a very acomplished musician.

The sound quality is very good and even though I said Black Noise is very eighties sounding there are still some very seventies sounding signatures in the sound. The drums for instance has a very soft sound.

Black Noise by FM has been an enjoyable album to listen to and Im a bit torn here between giving it 3 big stars or 4 small, but I really like Black Noise so I think I will go with 4 small.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars Neither very dark nor very noisy

FM is a Canadian band which (at this point in their career) consisted of Cameron Hawkins on vocals, keyboards, and bass, Nash "the Slash" on electric violin and mandolin, and Martin Deller on drums. The band is listed as Prog related, but Crossover Prog would probably be a much more fair categorization, at least as this debut album is concerned.

Black Noise is quite eclectic and sometimes even experimental, influenced by several sub-genres of progressive Rock (Symphonic Prog, Jazz-Rock/Fusion, Progressive Electronic) without sounding derivative. Comparisons with Rush are often made due to the band's country of origin and that both bands are trios, but musically a comparison with UK - particularly to their album Danger Money, when they too were reduced to a trio - would be much more appropriate, especially in virtue of the violin and synthesisers of Eddie Jobson. But comparisons to British Neo-Prog could also be made; Pallas' The Sentinel comes to mind.

Some songs on are quite catchy while others are more intense and complex, and yet others are more towards electronic soundscapes which function as instrumental interludes. Overall, Black Noise is a highly enjoyable album and a minor classic.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars I always felt that these guys had Rush in mind when they were developing their sound. While the sound is less heavy than Rush, this Canadian trio seemed to imitate some of Rush's phrasing a liitle too often for me to believe it was a coincidence. The difference in the instrumentation does help to differentiate from Rush, but being a power trio with a bass player who also sings and plays keyboards, the comparisons must come up.

Phasors On Stun begins with som Peart-like drum fills, then the song settles in closer to arena rock than true prog. One O'Clock Tomorrow is lighter, but proggier at the start. Unfortunately, just when this song sounds like it's going to take off, it settles into a predictable musical theme. Hours, although short, is where the band first goes all out into prog. It's a fusion-tinged piece, that would have fit in on a National Health album.

Journey is another song that sounds like they were thinking of Rush. Sure the vocals and instruments have different tones than Rush would have used, but the phrasing of the song sound very Rush-like. Like Hours, Dialing For Dharma is a short instrumental piece. It's an mostly electronic song, with a nice violin solo by Nash The Slash.

Slaughter In Robot Village is all-out prog, and here the band shows more of there own style. This is another instrumental piece. But I can't help comparing Deller's style to Peart. Alderberan is a ballad, and here Nash's mandolin sounds a bit like Hackett's guitar in Genesis

Black Noise at ten minutes, is the epic on the album. While I wouldn't say it's a prog masterpiece, it does have enough to keep me interested all the way through.

It's good that this band has violin, and mandolin instead of guitars. I suspect if that were not the case, this would sound even more like Rush. But luckily, they do get enough of their own sound in to avoid being a clone.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars It's a shame that this band has not gotten any more attention than it does. FM will always be considered a small ping on the prog sonar and even within the prog related genre is blindsided by the more successful acts (commercially speaking).

There's plenty here for the sci-fi enthusiast, and titles like ''Phasors on Stun'', ''Slaughter in Robot Village'' and ''Dialing for Dharma'' reinforce that. The numerous amounts of synthesizers and the role they take in the music add to the sci-fi mystique. If I could describe the best depiction of FM through this album, think of Tangerine Dream if they were more conventional.

The synths are more welcoming and effective rather than tacky, cheesy and dated. These aren't goony sounding disco synths or those plastic 80's synths; we have synths that create atmospheres and melodies without sounding like a swarm of 8-bit gnats. Lost in all of the synth praising is the character known as Nash the Slash (not the top hat-wearing guitarist) on an eclectic batch of instruments, notably violin.

There are a few textured instrumentals in ''Hours'', ''Dialing for Dharma'' and ''Slaughter in Robot Village'' that are padded with keys and quietly postering violin solos and satisfying basslines (courtesy of keyboardist Hawkins). ''Journey'' and ''Phasors on Stun'' are poppier in spirit but as satisfying as a U.K. tune.

The real treat for the prog rock fan is the title track, and your troubles will be over as soon as Deller starts drumming. It's real menacing in the beginning, but the track only builds on itself from there with the exception of a beautifully calm middle third. Some of the most haunting vocals and sinister keyboards are here, but the bass at the end seals the deal.

Not all prog fans will find BLACK NOISE as being close to prog rock, but the way FM uses their instruments is indeed intriguing and at times spellbinding. One of the better albums in the prog related section of this website.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Toronto-based Canadian band FM began as a duo of Cameron Hawkins (lead vocals/bass/synths) and a mysterious figure hidden under surgical bandages named Nash the Slash (violin/mandolin/vocals) in 1976.The group first recorded in July 1976 live in studio at a half an hour show three long pieces,later to be added in the ''Black noise'' album.This early demo sound was not to be released until 2001.By February the duo became a trio with the addition of Martin Deller on drums/synths.After an appearance on CBC,they recorded their debut ''Black noise'',initially treated as a limited copy album by CBC distributed by mail order (!!),only to have better luch the next year,when FM signed with Visa Records.

''Black noise'' is a semi-commercial Art Rock/Prog album,easily accesible,but very sophisticated and mature at the same time.The sound comes like a cross between AMBROSIA,KANSAS and U.K. with beautiful melodies throughout,strong synthesizers,fantastic electric violin and heavy use of electric mandolin instead of guitars.Vocals are quite great with some polyphonic passages as well.Influences range from Art Pop and violin-based Fusion to Symphonic and Space Rock with extended use of synthesizers.Many prog fans will find plenty of similarities with the upcoming Neo Prog sound at the synth-driven parts and the vocal-driven choruses.The band delivers also plenty of synth- and violin solos to show a sufficient virtuosic and technical level,but all of them into elaborate and well-crafted songs,

Towards the end of the Classic Prog-era,FM produced an album,which would show that sophisticated rock music can be both accesible and demanding.''Black noise'' comes strongly recommended to lovers of Art Rock adventures with various influences and inspirations...3.5 stars.

Review by Neu!mann
3 stars Guilty pleasures don't get much guiltier than this prime slice of Canadian Prog Rock. And not only guilty, but hereby convicted in the court of hindsight and sentenced to a slow, painless death by analog nostalgia.

Any overview of the music is going to read like a damning litany of Progressive sins: the ham- fisted sci-fi themes (including a song titled "Phasors On Stun", complete with Star Trek sound effects); the cheesy synthesizer runs (left over from the last Rick Wakeman album); and other assorted transgressions against good taste, like a violin/mandolin player with the dubious nom-de-prog of Nash the Slash, who would later tour alongside Gary Numan while swathed head-to-toe in surgical bandages, like Claude Rains portraying "The Invisible Man" (take a look at his undisguised mug shot on the inner LP sleeve to see what he was hiding...and why).

The musicianship is what saves the album, and the contagious songwriting. Every track has its hook, and every hook is catchy as hell. Nash the Slash (real name Jeff Playman, which apparently lacked the necessary rock star cachet) was a talent to be reckoned with, always challenging keyboard wizard Cameron Hawkins with his virtuoso electric violin solos, most effectively in the ten-minute title track. And Martin Deller was one of the smoothest drummers this side of Bill Bruford or Curt Cress, practicing an assertive yet swinging style that never failed to rock, even at its most subtle.

I loved the album as a kid, when I was too young to know any better. But only now, as a more jaded adult, can I fully appreciate its proggy charms, precisely because of (and not despite) all the dated clichs. It helps, of course, to have been there when the album was new. But, unlike a lot of music from the mid-1970s, the FM debut can still be heard without prejudice.

Review by Menswear
5 stars A lost gem, eh?

Indeed, these canucks are a rather pleasant surprise since I thought having heard everything Canada had to offer. FM is canadian as a moose with a Maple Leafs shirt dipped in maple syrup. The sound is typical Canada 80's and I might add that it's the closest sound to Rush' Signals I've heard so far. Good thing, I'm mad about Signals. Oh, and Neil Peart wore a tee of the band in an old Rush interview...that's what got me curious.

Everything is very well played, and even if they're only 3 (e-violin, drums, keys), they pack a rather thick sound. Not everything is perfect taste unfortunately, some parts are what I call a 'space-ballad' (alderberan and such) that only the 80's could regurgitate. Apart from the occasionnal cheese factor, this band is original (underlined) and somewhat spacey...think dry ice smoke with green laser.

In the recent years I fell for a band called Singularity. I thought their approach was irresistible, with lots of hypnotic synths and reverb vocals. Well I'll be damned, they ripped off FM. Like big time. It's sad to find that one of your favorite band is a clone, but I'm consolated by the finding of the anthologists of that particular sound!

Classic and original etherial sound. Colorful as the laser shows of the early 80's.

Review by Warthur
5 stars FM's black noise presents a talented trio sounding like a massive band thanks to Deller, Hawkins and Nash the Slash's fearsome technical chops and exciting, energetic compositions. Nash the Slash is the standout performer on here, making his sole album appearance with the band before he departed to continue his own eccentric solo career, because between his violin, mandolin and glockenspiel he is able to incorporate a dizzying variety of unexpected sonic textures into the band's work. Far from your typical power trio, FM here have a sound based on a mixture of symphonic prog, jazz fusion, and other genres of 1970s art rock and at points are able to attain a strange futuristic sound reminiscent of the electronic music of the coming decade. A prog classic.
Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 1977's `Black Noise' by Canadian trio FM is their one sole defining near-classic album! While the band seem to constantly be compared to Rush and Saga (likely simply due to the similar Canadian background), there's really not too much on this album that sounds like those two acts. Instead, despite offering a few accessible and melodic rock tracks, `Black Noise' jump backs and forth between Kansas-styled violin-driven instrumentals and deep space synth dominated atmospheres not far off the 80's Eloy albums. Violin player, the future charismatic and fascinating performance artist Nash the Slash makes such a big impression here that the follow-up albums, while some of them not being without their own strong merits, couldn't hope to make the same impact as this one does.

Sleek vocal rocker opener `Phasers on Stun' drifts the closest to Saga, but with more opportunity for plentiful swirling mini-moog spirals and gleaming synths all round. The only thing that lets it down are some cheesy laser gun sound effects throughout, but they're hardly surprising when you look at the track name! `One O'Clock Tomorrow' races through several ideas within six minutes, with low-key violin, shiny synth outbursts and foot tapping vocal passages to open and close. The first instrumental `Hours' could have appeared on any early Kansas album (if they'd been looking after an alien colony on the moon as opposed to a grounded dirt farm back on Earth!), driven by searing violin, colourful synth loopiness and breakneck drum soloing all racing together with incredible energy. `Journey' is a pleasing pop-rocker with a chorus so catchy and memorable that it could have appeared on an early Alan Parsons Project album.

The short but joyful and upbeat instrumental `Dialling for Dharma' offers groovy slinking synths bubbling under atmospheric violin and some bashing drums. The absolute highlight of the album is another instrumental `Slaughter in Robot Village', a spiky, brooding spacerocker almost in the manner of early Hawkwind, full of urgency and thrashing power. Heavy and dramatic, snaking violin slithers along the background behind heavy pounding drumming and delirious synths. If you're curious about this album, do yourself a favour and investigate clips of this piece, and it will convince you right away to hunt the album down! `Alderberan' could almost be an outtake from the first three Collins- led Genesis albums, a sweet dreamy melody with a distant `Afterglow' quality floating throughout it. The almost ten minute closing title track is most ambitious of all, a spacey epic with long ambient passages, electronic drones, hypnotic vocals and rising mantra-like violin, with a nice run of grumbling slab-thick bass near the end.

Amazingly for an album that features no electric guitars, `Black Noise' still seriously rocks with great power and finesse. It achieves a perfect balance of accessible melodic rock music with impressive progressive technicality, the two woven together to strong and exciting arrangements. That combination is really not so easy to achieve, but FM get it spot on here. Nash the Slash would depart after this album, but the band would go on to record `Headroom: Direct to Disc', well-regarded by fans of the band. But the career highlight will always `Black Noise', a truly essential classic Seventies prog work.

Five stars.

Review by FragileKings
4 stars I was under the impression that FM were one of those obscure crossover prog bands who enjoyed mild success and then disappeared. I was in no hurry to buy an album until I read two things: they are a Canadian band and Nash the Slash was a founding member. I actually don't know any music by Nash, but a friend of mine liked him back in the mid-eighties and that's how I know of him. Canadian prog from the seventies, however, is something that piques my interest because I am Canadian and I'm always interested in making new discoveries of Canadian talent, especially from the seventies.

Without listening to a single note, I ordered the album and was more that pleasantly surprised. This is quite a decent piece of work! Now being of the year 1977 one has to expect certain sounds and production techniques were employed. Indeed, this sounds like a late seventies album: Saga, Klaatu, Eloy, Happy the Man, and even Tormato Yes. However, FM does not sound like any of those bands. They did very well to create and capture their own sonic palette.

Perhaps the remarkable point of this album is that the only guitar to appear here is Cameron Hawkins' bass guitar. Other stringed instruments were Nash's electric violin and mandolin. Add Martin Deller's drums and lots of synthesizer and some electronic effects and glockenspiel and you get a uniquely sounding band that combines progressive compositions with atypical organic instrumentation and a penchant for experimentation with electronic instruments.

But isn't that a delayed guitar effect at the beginning of "Phasors on Stun"? Nope. Mandolin. Then surely that's an electric guitar in "Journey"? The liner notes don't credit any electric guitar other than the bass. Very well achieved indeed.

So this threesome (Why were so many Canadian bands trios? Small population? Too many musicians in Lighthouse?) created a tight album of vibrant and vigorous music with lots of instrumental breaks and some instrumentals, ripping solos on synthesizer, violin, mandolin, and even an appreciably short but strapping drum solo. The vocals and song melodies are very accessible without undermining the exceptional instrumental work. Though a big fan of heavy guitar riffs or beautiful acoustic guitar and piano, I really enjoy this album, which has neither guitar nor piano.

It's difficult for me not to be biased about this album for the aspect of nationality, but if not worthy of five stars then four seems barely adequate. Four and a half would be a more suitable rating, I feel. It's not just the music; it's the spirit of creativity and expanding horizons that makes this an outstanding piece of progressive rock from the latter half of the 1970's. When the bar of prog was being gradually lowered, FM couldn't limbo so low and tried to bump it up again. It's not to hard to imagine many bands in the early eighties taking some cues from "Black Noise". Visionary work indeed.

Latest members reviews

3 stars The Quintessential FM album. The first album by FM was only released for a short run on a special CBC record label, and only after the song "Phasers on Stun" became played frequently on some radio stations (after they had already released their second album) did this album get a proper release (o ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697976) | Posted by Walkscore | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The 70's, as seen by the 80's: 9/10 Insane guitar reverb, powerful synth, eclectic electronic apparatus, an accomplished drummer... BLACK NOISE is hardly what one would suspect to be a masterpiece within the progressive genre. Putting into perspective a progressive fan enjoys synthesisers - ... (read more)

Report this review (#1696986) | Posted by Luqueasaur | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 'Phasors on Stun' was a radio hit in Canada when it was new and can still be heard on Canadian classic rock stations every once in a while. It is a very kool pop song with a distinctive synthesizer hook. The rest of the album is sort of a combination of keyboard driven pop and true prog. But ... (read more)

Report this review (#175542) | Posted by digdug | Friday, June 27, 2008 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I bought this album brand-spanking new when it first came out, as I had heard the song "Phasors on Stun" on a local college/prog radio station. It was tantalizing enough to make me check it out, and it was quite a pleasant surprise. All the tracks are at least listenable, and there is enough ... (read more)

Report this review (#56046) | Posted by beebs | Saturday, November 12, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is a great unknown band that is essential for every prog lover out their. Cameron Hawkins & his synthesizer are great especially on Phasors on Stun. So is Nash the Slash playing his electcric violin. This is the best unknown band out there! ... (read more)

Report this review (#39753) | Posted by Parker | Monday, July 18, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars For a change no DT review.This is a classic in canadian rock.If you want to own a FM CD this is the one.Nice recording ,no weak track,some instrumental and very nice electric violin partitions and dont forget it was recorded in 1977.I was lucky to see them fronting RUSH in OTTAWA for the Moving ... (read more)

Report this review (#37175) | Posted by pots | Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I got this record as a Promotion Copy when working in radio. I was blown away then, and now as I have "re-found" the album in my collection. The fact that Black Noise has no guitars is not lost on the playing quality of Cameron and Nash. I always wonder what they would have been like opening f ... (read more)

Report this review (#31161) | Posted by | Saturday, January 8, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is not so much a review of Black Noise per say, but a subjective review of seeing them performing it LIVE. I saw FM at Queen's University(Grant Hall),Kingston Ont. Canada sometime in the late 70's. Opening for them we're none other than Saga. I, along with my wife, went to see them w ... (read more)

Report this review (#31160) | Posted by | Friday, October 15, 2004 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Hey guys( James and Hugues)..thanks for reminding me of this GEM..which has been sittin on my cd shelf gathering dust...its nice to hear it again.And as you both correctly pointed out,it really is a wonderful album from days past....still it stands up to todays standards. Nash the slash,Martin D ... (read more)

Report this review (#31158) | Posted by Tonny Larz | Wednesday, June 2, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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