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FM - Black Noise CD (album) cover




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4.11 | 155 ratings

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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.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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