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FM - Black Noise CD (album) cover




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4.11 | 155 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
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 Úlan 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. .

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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