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FM - Direct To Disc [Aka: Head Room] CD (album) cover




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3.60 | 95 ratings

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4 stars With 'Direct To Disc', FM presented what would be their most experimental and ambitious recording. It's too bad they didn't exploit their more adventurous tendencies on successive albums, because this 2-song full-length is an impressive, sometimes astounding listen.

First track "Headroom" soars and volleys from symphonic part to symphonic part, with electric violin and keyboards sharing space in the foreground. The sounds are usually lush and airy, atmospheric and easy to sink into. It's fun to try and pick out which sound is being generated by Ben Mink's violin or Cameron Hawkins' synths. They melt together well, giving a unified focus to everything. Hawkins also doubles on bass guitar and hardly-there vocals (which are nice but seem like somewhat of an afterthought), while Mink also generates some unusual sounds with his 5-sting mandolin. Martin Deller's sensitive, tasteful drumming is fantastic throughout, though the solo in the middle of the song seems pointless (like most drum solos, no?). Second track, "Border Crossing", is even more interesting, far more experimental, a fascinating composition. It maintains a soundtrack-ish ambience at times, and a kinetic, jazzy attack other times. Mink's violin whines and cries with melancholic beauty, and while there's yet another drum solo, it's merely a short few bars that melt into Hawkins and Mink's melodic mastery, slowly, slowly working toward the song's wonderfully-layered climax.

The nature of this recording is also key to the album's listenability. Recorded live, with no overdubs, the spontaneous performances (the songs were composed beforehand) are laid down direct to the master disc. All in all, this excellent document of FM at its best remains compelling, listen after listen. Very nearly a mandatory prog classic, but unfortunately rather hard to find, and its chances of appearing on CD seem rather slim.

slipperman | 4/5 |


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