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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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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Despite having lost their original (and very original) frontman Nash The Slash, FM managed to find some kind of deal that had them enter a studio and engrave directly a disc. This DTD process had become quite rare by the late 70's and was sometimes still used for demo acetates. This process implies that the direct engraving forbids any kind of mixing and production work, even down to overdubs, etc? So whatever was played in the take was final. Sure the band actually took four takes of each tracks of this "EP", and chose the better one. As you can guess, the "untouchable" results can be relatively raw and even have a jam feel at times, but fear not the overall results is astounding: difficult to be more demanding, and while not improvised, the music takes a slight JR/F slant at times, to counter (or complement) the space rock; the latter still being their main influence.

Just two lengthy instrumental tracks over this EP (lasting just about a half-hour), but both of them are divided in four or five movements. Opening on Headroom (giving the album's other name), the trio embarks on a breakneck speed movement, where Billy Cobham would not disown Deller's drumming. Yes, the feeling is very much JR/F during the Tyra movement, but as soon as the composition calms down the Reflections movements, the mood goes spacey (but not cosmic), but once the tempo picks up, it gets jam-like, notably in the closing movement Scarberia (a nickname for the eastern-county Scarborough, extending the Toronto city limits way out east). On the flipside, Border Crossing also reaches towards JR/F sonics, Mink almost pulling a Santana-like solo around 2:30. More spacey effects (sometimes dissonant) are happening during the second movement, The only time vocals are to be heard, they're muffled in deeply in the mix at the start of the third movement, but this doesn't mean that the track comes back to a sense of normalcy. Indeed, when FM crossed that border, there was no turning back, but the trio almost loses itself two thirds of the way into their cosmic expedition. Once they finally find their way, it's a slow jazzy violin (between Ponty and Lockwood) return to base.

This limited-number release DTD album had become quite rare (I lost my vinyl copy somewhere crossing the pond), because it had never seen, a reissue, beit in vinyl or on CD, until early 2013, when Esoteric finally released it, along with the splendid Black Noise and the band's following two albums (also never released legit), still with Ben Mink. Personally, if DTD/HR is absolutely essential, I find that both Surveillance (79) and City Of Fear (80) fail to maintain the level of their first two albums, so unlike this essential album, they're quite expandable, partly because they hold shorter AOR-formatted songs. In the meantime, despite the change of violin/guitarist (always a big gamble), DTD is definitely worthy of the excellent debut Black Noise.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


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