4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Pinnacle of 90s ambient,
This review is from: Lifeforms (Audio CD)
One way or another, the early to mid '90s saw a commercial interest in ambient electronica which hasn't been seen before or since. Classics of the era appeared from Global Communication, The Orb, The KLF, Spacetime Continuum and Biosphere, each bringing something different to the table. Somewhere between these various approaches lies FSOL's Lifeforms, possibly the most impressive and essential disc of the lot.
FSOL always took sampling as the basis and start point of their music, and it is as evident here as ever. The first thing to hear on the album is a minute of unusual sounds (sampled from Ozric Tentacles, among other sources), from vocals and flutes, to nature sounds and gurgling synths. Finally, when the piece - Cascade - gets going, we are treated to five minutes of shuffling beats and airy synths. It's a beautiful opener, and the track sets the tone for the rest of the two disc, 19 track album. Unusually structured ambient techno pieces (Lifeforms, Vit) lie alongside experimental soundscapes (Bird Wings, Little Brother) and epic synthscapes (Eggshell, Spineless Jelly), all neatly woven together by the duo's vast sample library, with aeroplanes soaring over and rivers gurgling beneath. The overall feeling is exotic - aural pictures of deserts, rainforests and savannas are all painted - but the album never veers into new age redundancy, keeping a dark, sinster undercurrent running throughout the record.
It is all too easy to wax lyrical about the images that come to mind when listening to Lifeforms, but I shall limit it to saying that it is the most incredibly visual, stimulating album I have ever heard. The depth of production, with new sounds still appearing to me after thirteen years of listening, is immense, and the quality of the music itself is high enough for it to escape any accusations of style over substance.
Other albums have beautiful synth pieces, excellent dubby beats and sample-based atmospherics, but nothing else comes close to combining the three in the way Lifeforms does - not even in FSOL's extensive discography.