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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 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.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |


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