F/i - "The Past Darkly/The Future Lightly: Rare and Unreleased '83-'89" (Lexicon Devil 2003, lexdev-005)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: June 2004
Thanks mainly to Dave Lang of Lexicon Devil, F/i now have their earliest and most obscure RRR Records recordings appearing in some of the better of the record stores around the world. I certainly let out a uncharactaristically unselfconscious shout of glee when I came across this and "Why Not Now?...Alan!" at Amoeba last year...and in the "Unusually Experimental" category, too...ha. Anyway, on to the music and history. This is a double-disc set which contains the entire vinyl box-set released on RRR in '89. Disc One covers the years '83-'85, when F/i were exclusively an experimental industrial-noise outfit, and these are the best of those explorations, though they definitely became far more successful as a space-rock band. As can be expected from the above-mentioned genre references, there is not a variety of moods here, just dark, darker, darkest. Obnoxious buzzing electronics, black ambience, thin hyper-speed drum machine ala Residents, nightmarish deadpan vocal samples, copter loops, radar noise-blips, farts, space sounds, radios, sheets of metal crashing to the floors of abandoned warehouses in middle of night. Spooky/campy/surreal/over-the-top as only '80s industrial music can be. One track is a collaboration with Boy Dirt Car and even features some real-time tool-percussion, hammers/sticks/clubs/whatever. "Main Theme from Y" has the best cosmic keyboard sounds...closing out the disc "3384" is a fairly melodic Tangerine Dreamy bit. A couple tracks do have a slower, more sweeping, spaciousness to the rhythms, and fuzz guitar, but the devotion to rock-power was not yet there to properly lift these up. This is a good "mood disc" for me, for darker, more self-absorbed moments, and convenient, since I don't have much music of this type/era. I'm a rocker, so I'm ready to sink 'em into disc #2, which covers '85-'89.
F/i are fucking space-rock gods. Actually I hadn't realized that F/i had plunged so deeply into the pure Hawkwind space-rock sound as early as '85, the Boy Dirt Car split having not indicated such. This disc is lumbering jam after jam, power-riffs and high-flying tronics aplenty, most of the recordings a bit more low-F/i than usual, but that's how we like it. Yet another version of F/i/Vocokesh standard "The Circle is the Square" resides, the epic '74/'75 Hawkwind-type chord progression they've plundered incessantly. "Untitled Jam #5" is a blitz of fuzz, Hawkwind, Gong, tribal bass and chirping tronics before the riff kicks in and a bulbous bass calls forth a clumsy groove. An early version of "Your Illusion" with rough vocal abides (later redone 10 years later on the great "Helioscopium"). Jam #7 is a long slow doomy burner that gets so freaked-out with synth and feedback in its mid-section, I felt my headphones would merge with my brain. This is some of the most diabolical stuff known to the genre. "Standing in the Garden" is the first thing I ever heard by the group, as part of the Hawkwind list-serve's covers-compilation. Thank god for the friggin' Internet. It still sounds like one of their most inspired moments, too, appropriately referencing "Assault and Battery" and with a great vocal to boot...and it stomps. Hawkwind Nation. "Psychological Warfare Testing" is an industrial-noise piece so far superior to most of disc one's experimentations, you wish they'd tapped into this machine-muse earlier...brilliant collage-work of metal machinery, copter/drill-tronics, and radio samples. Another tune the group have thematically explored is "Threshold", which here is a 16-minute version, its distinguishing feature being a great midsection where Richard Franecki and Brian Wensing, great guitar-gods in the Space Rock Pantheon, astoundingly duplicate nearly plink-for-plunk Dave Brock's treated guitar-effects from the old Hawkwind "Countdown/Earth Calling" freakouts. All-in-all, quite the package for those that were too young or just plain unaware of the material back when it was issued on limited quantity vinyl...as are all these reissues.
For more information you can visit the F/i web site at: http://www.sixthstation.com/fi.
Email Lexicon Devil at: email@example.com.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg