F/i - "Blue Star/Merge Parlour EP" (Lexicon Devil 2003, Lexdev-006)
Uploaded to Aural Innovations: June 2004
Released on (of course) RRR in '90, Blue Star was the first album release without Franecki as current member, though he does appear on the title-track, which is actually half the album. Guitarist Wensing, bassist John Frankovic, drummer Ron Faiola and electronicist Richter are up to task on side one, which opens with a version of "Threshold" that remains my favorite, due its being the first I heard but even more for Richter's masterful synth strokes, which are agile, alive and talkative in a rare way. This (and "Ohm Twenty-One") were recorded live in Bremen, Germany, but I'm still struggling to appreciate the ending, which features the group at full threshold tempo during which an improvised guy-girl punk duet almost seem to cheapen the old standard...still, the collaboration sounds natural enough...and who cares?? Obviously the musicians don't!
Anyway, following is "Ohm Twenty-One", a slower number with pretty mournfully melodious licks from Wensing above which Richter is set loose to meander any such way with crisp, abrasive, staccato, guitarish runs speeding up and slowing down at will, regardless of the beat. The rhythm section drops out and Wensing gets back to his beloved Dave Brock/Space Ritual-interlude guitar effects, thence he and Richter are lost to deep space for a time, before the band returns to the "Threshold" riff and a standard blitz to conclude. Back to '89 and Franecki still on bass and tronics, the 20-minute+ title-track begins in dark ambient Teutonic space before falling into hypnotic tribal rhythm in which resides a slow bass-groove unlike standard F/i but still like an epic space/kosmiche klassic. Franecki's synth proceeds thoughout with a variety of cosmic sounds, while Wensing's guitar actually wails glissando-like as the elephant, elastic and stratospheric, with the added tenderness. Sublime. Tacked on here is Merge Parlour, F/i's half of a split LP w/Vocokesh (and listening here indicates that F/i were as experimental as Vocokesh were traditional at the time, 'kesh's half being on the Ispepnaibara release). "Theme for an Industrial Western" is a brief display of mechanical rhythm and overlying surf-guitar soloing which has no time to get too involved. "Zombie in the Slave Trade" would be the "centrepiece", a feverish, freakish mantra with electronic tabla, strangely-shifting bass-heavy power-riffs and back-masked drum-plod headness. "Pleasure Centres/The Beach" teases a vocal sample and adds screaming guitar weirdness in an industrialized rhythmic romp, before becoming looping, clanking and obnoxious. More to come in this series, we hope.
For more information you can visit the F/i web site at: http://www.sixthstation.com/fi.
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Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg