album list

Flying Luttenbachers
David Fonseca
Luis Fonsi
Forest City Lovers
Jeffrey Foucault
Four Corners
Fractal Mirror
Les Fradkin
Gavin Friday
Frog Holler
Lily Frost
Fucking Am
Fucking Champs
Fun Machine
Future Kings of England
Future Sound of London

Flying Luttenbachers  (US)

Flying Luttenbachers, '"...The Truth is a Fucking Lie..."'

"...The Truth is a Fucking Lie..."  (1999,  39.38)  ***

De Futura
...The Truth is a Fucking Lie...
Black Perversion
P.A.L.S. Nipple - Clamped
If I'm Going to Become a 'Seminal Artist', I'd Better Suck Up to the Critics a Little Better/The Big Finale
Flying Luttenbachers, 'Cataclysm'

Cataclysm  (2006,  53.31)  ***

Demonic Velocities/20,000,000 Volts
Insektoid Horror
The Elimination of Incompetence
From Oblivion
Interstellar War
Fourth Movement of "L'Ascension"
Regime I
Regime II
Flying Luttenbachers, 'Incarceration By Abstraction'

Incarceration By Abstraction  (2007,  46.59)  ***½

Assault on Apathy
Violent Shade
Triplex (for Ed Rodriguez & Mick Barr)
Crypt Emission
The Serialization of Cruelty
The First Time

Current availability:

The Flying Luttenbachers are pretty much synonymous with their leader, Christopher Todd 'Weasel' Walter, and employ a bewildering variety of styles to get their message across, not least free jazz, punk, metal and other, less obvious forms. "...The Truth is a Fucking Lie..." is their eighth album, including cassette releases and is as far into the avant-garde as anything on this site, I reckon. Its most coherent track is probably the eight-minute Medley, utilising death metal tropes alongside more 'trad' metal and noise/avant-garde influences, while Black Perversion is, essentially, noise, while their Magma cover, De Futura, is about as odd and Magma-esque as you'd expect. Now, that man Weasel is credited with Mellotron on the title track and it does indeed sound quite like 'Tron strings coming out of the right speaker, with a more 'standard' strings patch on the left. However... It sounds far too sample-like to my ears, with none of the crankiness you'd expect from a real Mellotron; this is pre-M-Tron days, don't forget and samples were rather less convincing. Of course, should it turn out to be real... I'd be amazed, though.

Some years on and 2006's Cataclysm and the following year's Incarceration By Abstraction are so similar that it's almost redundant to review them separately. More accessible (I use the term extremely loosely) than ...The Truth..., they both serve out large dollops of Crimson-at-their-maddest, with major hints of the kind of harmonic dissonance that Cardiacs tapped into in their early days. Does this sound like your bag? Ten minutes of it is fab: refreshingly direct, angular oddness that engages your synapses, but a hundred minutes straight is a bit much, frankly... Incarceration... seems to channel the noise in a slightly more cohesive direction, explaining the extra half star. There's more obvious samplotron on Cataclysm than Incarceration..., notably the strings on Regimes I and II, but neither album's exactly brimming with it.

So; avant-garde madness and a fake Mellotron. Up to you, really.

Official site

David Fonseca  (Portugal)

David Fonseca, 'Our Hearts Will Beat as One'

Our Hearts Will Beat as One  (2005,  49.27/54.30)  **

Who Are U?
Swim II
Cold Heart II
Hold Still II
Start Over Again II
Come Into My Heart II
Our Hearts Will Beat as One II
The Longest Road
Open Legs Wide
Adeus, Não Afastes os Teus Olhos dos Meus
[Fnac bonus track:
When U Hit the Floor]

Current availability:

David Fonseca found fame with Silence 4, before going solo in 2003, 2005's Our Hearts Will Beat as One being his second release under his own name. I'm sure you're au fait with the concept of the 'local act': you know, the artist/band in a country that isn't the UK or US that apes one who is? Well, Fonseca is Portugal's one-man answer to Coldplay. Resultantly, we're 2:10 into the first track before Fonseca hits the falsetto button, just like all those successful British and American singers, right? The album's material is unremittingly bland, even the 'rocky' tracks that crop up occasionally between the ballads and mainstream pop.

Paulo Pereira plays 'Mellotron' flutes on Swim II and something (distant choirs?) on Open Legs Wide (which appears to be less sexist than it sounds), but I remain unconvinced, especially in a country little-known for its Mellotron ownership. You're not going to want to hear this anyway, are you?

Official site

Luis Fonsi  (US)

Luis Fonsi, 'Palabras del Silencio'

Palabras del Silencio  (2008,  70.37)  *½

Quién le Va a Decir
Llueve por Dentro
Otro Día Será (Desencontrándonos)
No Me Doy por Vencido
Aunque Estés Con Él
La Mentira
Lágrimas del Mar
Todo Vuelve a Empezar
Persiguiendo el Paraíso
Todo Lo Que Tengo
Aquí Estoy Yo
Tienes Razón
No Me Doy por Vencido (versión ranchera)
Así Debe Ser
No Me Doy por Vencido (versión urbana)
No Me Doy por Vencido (versión banda)
Aquí Estoy Yo (Luis Fonsi solo)
Llueve por Dentro (versión en Vivo)

Current availability:

Born in Puerto Rico, Luis Fonsi is one of those 'technically American' Latin artists (see: Gloria Estefan) who've lived there most of their lives but were born elsewhere and work mainly in the Latin idiom. As a result, Fonsi's sound, while determinedly mainstream Latin pop, has elements of other American styles creeping in. His seventh album, 2008's Palabras del Silencio, consists mostly of revoltingly slushy ballads mixed with upbeat Spanish-language pop, although a couple of songs start off in a powerpop vein, before ruining the mood within a few bars.

Armando Avila is credited with Mellotron on three tracks, but whatever was used on Llueve Por Dentro, No Me Doy Por Vencido and one of the pseudo-powerpop tracks, the Cars-alike Persiguiendo El Paraíso is, at best, samples and at worst, nothing to do with a Mellotron whatsoever. Unless I'm wrong, of course. Anyway, a mostly horrible album that you'll want to avoid with prejudice.

Official site

Forest City Lovers  (Canada)

Forest City Lovers, 'Carriage'

Carriage  (2010,  35.41)  **½

Phodilus & Tyto
Tell Me- Cancer
Sea to Land
Keep the Kids Inside
Pocketful of Rocks
Oh the Wolves!
Light You Up
Believe Me
If I Were a Tree

Current availability:

The Forest City Lovers are a Canadian indie/folk outfit, led by Kat Burns, whose third full band album (following Burns' 2005 solo release For the Birds), 2010's Carriage is, I'm afraid to say, a rather tedious effort, featuring neither strong enough vocal melodies nor interesting enough musical ideas to hold the attention of this reviewer, at least. Better tracks include the vaguely haunted Sea To Land and Believe Me, but it's a little like clutching at straws, to be honest.

James Bunton is credited with Mellotron, but I seriously doubt whether the strings on opener Phodilus & Tyto are nearer than several sample generations to a real machine. Overall, not awful, yet not very interesting, either. Maybe not.

Official site

Jeffrey Foucault  (US)

Jeffrey Foucault, 'Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes'

Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes: A Collection: Jeffrey Foucault Sings the Songs of John Prine  (2008,  57.11)  ***½

The Late John Garfield Blues
Billy the Bum
He Was in Heaven Before He Died
Unwed Fathers
Hello in There
One Red Rose
Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
Far From Me
Daddy's Little Pumpkin
Mexican Home
Storm Windows
That's the Way That the World Goes 'Round
Clocks and Spoons

Current availability:

Jeffrey Foucault's fifth album, Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes: A Collection, is subtitled Jeffrey Foucault Sings the Songs of John Prine, in tribute to an unfairly lesser-known living legend. Those with a low tolerance for country (without the western) should probably go somewhere else, but Foucault gives Prine's superb songs highly sympathetic readings throughout, his voice and guitar mostly supported by pedal steel, played in a decidedly un-mawkish manner.

Foucault is credited with Mellotron, but the flutes on Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness, while reasonably accurate, are sampled; listen for the well over eight-second held chord at the end. My reasoning? It doesn't need to be that long, so you wouldn't bother with studio trickery to accomplish it, therefore it's a sample that you can hold as long as you like while it fades. Ipso facto. Nevertheless, this is a good, if not jaw-dropping album, that fans of both Foucault and Prine should appreciate.

Official site

Four Corners  (US)

Four Corners, 'Say You're a Scream'

Say You're a Scream  (2001,  37.05)  ***

Untitled Instrumental Theme #1
I Say You're a Scream
The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.
Miss Moneypenny
The Secret Life
Long Tall Shorty
Summer's Time
The Pastel Queen: Compassionate Lotus
  Blossom of Immense Destruction
Don't You Wanna Hear Me
Now!, Baby!, Now!
Stand Up!
Dinosaurs in Brooklyn
All Over Town
No Fun
Destination: Danger

Current availability:

Four Corners exist at the mid-'60s 'mod party' end of the powerpop spectrum; their (debut?) album, 2001's Say You're a Scream was issued in the unusual format of (mono?) vinyl and mono and stereo versions on one CD, almost as retro as (and decades later than) the first Dr. Feelgood album, 1974's Down By the Jetty, issued only in mono. Switching between male and (rather weak) female leads, it's a slightly inconsistent record, highlights including opener Untitled Instrumental Theme #1 (you lazy buggers), Miss Moneypenny (you can see where this lot are coming from, can't you?) and The Pastel Queen: Compassionate Lotus Blossom Of Immense Destruction (!), although it all begins to pall towards the end, despite the (half) album's relatively short running time.

Neil Cleary is credited with Mellotron, with flutes on Summer's Time and The Pastel Queen, although a combination of their exceedingly bogus sound and production from noted sample user Bill Doss (Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo, Sunshine Fix) makes this a sample 'dead cert', just for once. So; not a bad effort, but too much filler. Notably, the band hasn't recorded since, which is a shame, as I'm sure they'd have improved given time.

Foxygen  (US)

Foxygen, 'We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic'

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic  (2013,  36.45)  **½

In the Darkness
No Destruction
On Blue Mountain
San Francisco
Bowling Trophies
Oh Yeah
We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Oh No 2
Foxygen, '...And Star Power'

...And Star Power  (2014,  81.49)  *

Star Power Airlines
How Can You Really
Coulda Been My Love
Cosmic Vibrations
You & I
Star Power Suite
  I: Overture
  II: Star Power Nite
  III: What Are We Good for
  IV: Ooh Ooh
I Don't Have Anything/The Gate
Mattress Warehouse
Wally’s Farm
Cannibal Holocaust
Hot Summer
Cold Winter/Freedom
Can't Contextualize My Mind
Brooklyn Police Station
The Game
Freedom II
Everyone Needs Love

Current availability:

California's Foxygen are an indie outfit with a considerable psych influence, which, sadly, does little to improve their second album, 2013's We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. Better tracks include Beatlesy opener In The Darkness, San Francisco and closer Oh No 2, but their combination of (faux-?) lysergic swirling and the standard indie lack of musical imagination quickly (and heavily) outstays its welcome. Someone adds clearly sampled Mellotron to several tracks, including a squawking string line in San Francisco, bland polyphonic flutes and a string line on Shuggie and strings on Oh Yeah, doing little to enhance the overall listening experience. I believe I've made a reviewing breakthrough with this record: if Pitchfork like it, I don't. There, that should save some time.

And I thought that was bad? The following year's ...And Star Power loses the little that makes its predecessor even occasionally listenable, being a vastly overlong collection of pointless musical vignettes pretty much devoid of any obvious psychedelic influence. Which leaves us with...? Indie. Fucking indie. Best track? Er, not sure there is one, although Everyone Needs Love has a decent instrumental middle-section. Worst? It's a close call, but the vile one/two of the faux-faux-'60s Hot Summer and the 'experimental' (read: pointless, drug-fuelled electronica) of Cold Winter/Freedom might just take the proverbial putty medal. Believe me, this redefines 'awful'. Samplotron? Occasional strings, for what it's worth, which is very little.

Official site

Fractal Mirror  (Netherlands)

Fractal Mirror, 'Strange Attractors'

Strange Attractors  (2013,  41.24)  ****

What's Inside
The Fading Ghosts of Yesterday
Brian's Song
Fade Away
A Life in Darkness
  Raising the Stakes
  Various Methods of Hunting
  Leave Me
  The Chair

Current availability:

Fractal Mirror consist of two out of three members of an Amsterdam-based, mid-'80s progressive outfit plus an American drummer, their sound, on 2013 debut Strange Attractors, sitting at an unusual point somewhere between prog, modern alt.rock and '80s 4AD artists. Reference points include Genesis (well, vaguely) and David Sylvian, although more recent influences (notable on the more upbeat material, such as opener What's Inside and the third part of A Life In Darkness, Raising The Stakes) evade me. At the prog(gier) end of the spectrum, second track in, The Fading Ghosts Of Yesterday, heads towards more familiar, slow-burn prog territory, other highlights including Brian's Song and most of the rest of A Life In Darkness, making for an eminently satisfying overall listen.

Leo Koperdraat (hi, Leo) adds sampled Mellotron to almost every track, with strings and choirs all over What's Inside, flutes and strings on The Fading Ghosts Of Yesterday, cellos on Fade Away and combinations of these sounds (plus occasional brass?) on almost everything else. All in all, a fine album, although the vocals (more Sylvian than 'typical' prog) won't appeal to everyone. Definitely worth a flutter.

Official site

Les Fradkin  (US)

Les Fradkin, 'Reality - The Rock Opera'

Reality - The Rock Opera  (2003,  70.04)  ***

Magic Attic
You Can't Change Me
25 Women, So Little Time
Reality Idol
It's Plastic
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Everything is Wrong
Rehearsals for Retirement
Reality Check
System Crash
The Rebirth of Hope
Les Fradkin, 'Guitar Revolution'

Guitar Revolution  (2007,  37.00)  ***

Live and Let Die
Within You Without You (Version 2)
I'll Be Back
Free as a Bird
Ever Present Past
Dance Tonight
I am the Walrus
Rockestra Theme

Current availability:

Les Fradkin has had a colourful career, beginning in the dying days of the '60s, working his way through a late-period version of The Godz (also working as Thornton, Fradkin & Unger & the Big Band), two hectic years as 'George Harrison' in the first Beatlemania stageshow and years of production and TV soundtrack work, finally working from home as a one-man band.

2003's Reality - The Rock Opera is the first fruit of his current labours, occupying the middle ground between an off-Broadway show, '80s pop and, maybe improbably, the more musical theatre-inclined strand of modern prog. Musically, an unsurprising '60s influence creeps in on several tracks, although the sampled drums give a pervasive (and slightly unwelcome) '80s feel to the proceedings. Fradkin writes with his wife, Loretta, so it's hard to say who's responsible for the lyrics, many of which are witty ruminations on modern life, better examples including You Can't Change Me and It's Plastic. Hugely ambitious, Reality overreaches itself in places, but is a welcome antidote to dumbed-down modern pop, which appears to have reached a new nadir lately. Fradkin uses the M-Tron plug-in, adding, variously, 'Mellotron' strings, flutes and/or choirs to every track here, admittedly not always that audibly, the most major example being on System Crash.

I haven't heard the next several Fradkin releases, but 2007's Guitar Revolution is an album of instrumental, guitar-led versions of songs by his first love, The Beatles, together and apart. While not exactly a resounding success, the album has its moments, notably McCartney's excellent Jet and Rockestra Theme, lowpoints being Lennon's maudlin and overplayed Imagine and a strangely gutless version of Live And Let Die. Fakeotron on several tracks, chiefly I Am The Walrus and an inventive rearrangement of Sgt Pepper's Within You Without You.

Les Fradkin has released a good dozen more albums that fall into the samplotron category, although when I might get to hear them can only be a matter for conjecture. A gifted musician, I'm not sure he's best served by regurgitating Beatles material, but if he manages to make a living from it, I wish him the best of luck.

Official site

See: Thornton, Fradkin & Unger | David Peel & the Apple Band | Beatlemania

Free System Projekt  (Sweden)  see:

Free System Projekt

Frida  (Sweden)

Frida, 'Djupa Andetag'

Djupa Andetag  (1996,  47.32)  **½

Älska Mig Alltid
Även en Blomma
Hon Fick Som Hon Ville
Alla Mina Bästa År
Lugna Vatten
Vem Kommer Såra Vem IkvällVem Kommer Såra Vem IkvällSista Valsen Med Dig
Kvinnor Som Springer

Current availability:

Anni-Frid "Frida" Lyngstad (now, surrealy, Anni-Frid, Princess Reuss, Countess of Plauen) should need no introduction; the contralto brunette in Abba, she (along with Agnetha Fältskog) is one of the most recognisable female faces (and voices) of the pop era. 1996's Swedish-language Djupa Andetag is her fifth and last solo album; she has stated that she has no interest in making music again. Unsurprisingly, it's a pretty mainstream '90s pop/rock effort, with the occasional Scandinavian touch, notably the accordion in Hon Fick Som Hon Ville, while Ögonen and seven-minute closer Kvinnor Som Springer, with its vague hip-hop/nu-metal influences stand out from the pack stylistically.

Anders Glenmark supposedly plays Mellotron on Hon Fick Som Hon Ville; are they referring to the squashy stabbed string chords in the intro? Not a Mellotron, chaps... Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think so. Anyway, diehard Abba fans need to hear this (and doubtless already have), while the rest of us can probably pass quietly by.

See: Abba

Gavin Friday  (Ireland)

Gavin Friday, 'Catholic'

Catholic  (2011,  51.37)  **½

Land on the Moon
A Song That Hurts
The Only One
The Sun & the Moon & the Stars
It's All Ahead of You
Where'd Ya Go? Gone
Lord I'm Comin'

Current availability:

Virgin Prunes mainman Fionán "Gavin Friday" Hanvey is a U2 associate, their influence shining brightly on his torchy fifth solo album, 2011's Catholic. Another obvious comparison is Marc Almond; it turns out that Friday sang on an album by Soft Cell's Dave Ball, strengthening the connection. Think: a camp, tenor Scott Walker filtered through late '80s U2 and you might be getting close. No, I don't like it very much, since you asked.

Herbie Macken allegedly plays Mellotron on two tracks, with faint flutes on Blame and nothing obvious (choirs?) on The Sun & The Moon & The Stars, but I'll be stunned should I discover that it's real. Anyway, good at what it does, assuming what it does is something you like. He said, grudgingly.

Official site

Frog Holler  (US)

Frog Holler, 'Railings'

Railings  (2003,  49.57)  ***

Unlock the Door
The Sweetest Sound
What Went Down
Suit & Tie
About Time
God's Children
Second Hand Smoke
Hole in the Ground

Current availability:

I've seen Philadelphia's Frog Holler described as 'Americana', but I think 'country' might be a better description, albeit in a trad kind of way, as they're a million miles from Nashville orthodoxy. Maybe they are Americana after all. 2003's Railings is their fourth album, covering a variety of country-related styles, so your potential enjoyment of it is directly related to your tolerance for vocals with a distinctly Southern twang and the occasional banjo solo. They seem to do it well enough, although it doesn't grab me in the same way as some of their contemporaries, for no obvious reason. Maybe they're just that bit too trad?

Someone plays a Mellotron-like flute melody in Suit & Tie, although it's almost certainly samples, with high notes that don't ring true at all and some background strings that are far too murky for their own good. This is a reasonable enough country album, in a folk kind of way, but there's probably a lot better out there if you're into the genre.

Official site

Lily Frost  (Canada)

Lily Frost, 'Situation'

Situation  (2004,  41.44)  **

Les Vaisseaux Nocturnes
Where is Love?
Blissed Out
Silver Sun
Camden Town
Black Narcissus
Out of Blue
[Hidden track]

Current availability:

Lily Frost is a Canadian singer-songwriter whose third solo album proper (ignoring a debut as The Colorifics), 2004's Situation, highlights her intimate, jazzy style on material such as twee opener Les Vaisseaux Nocturnes, Where Is Love? and the jazzy Camden Town, the most listenable thing here being the raw blues of the untitled 'hidden track' that closes the record. It seems that many of her fans first heard her music used on TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy, which says more than I ever could.

Steven Drake is credited with Mellotron, but the solo flute on Silver Sun (possibly heard elsewhere, too) is so generic that it barely even sounds like a Mellotron sample, making this a bit of a non-starter on several fronts.

Official site

Fucking Am  (US)

Fucking Am, 'Gold'

Gold  (2004,  41.07)  ***½

Bad Leg
The Gauntlet
Doing Research for an Autobiography
Taking Liberties
Acoustico Gomez
Elastico Gomez
Electrico Gomez

Current availability:

The stupendously-named Fucking Am are the last of four combinations of The Fucking Champs and Trans Am, the other being, of course TransChamps. 2004's Gold is their only album (at least to date), a mixture of the two bands' styles, funnily enough, highlights including the massive Thin Lizzy vibe on Doing Research For An Autobiography and the drone-rock of Elastico Gomez, although you don't get the feeling that anything here could have been left off.

Tim Green is credited with Mellotron, but the string line under a guitar one on Powerpoint sounds seriously inauthentic to my ears, frankly. Given that most of the two bands' combinations' 'Mellotron' use is at least a little suspect, that shouldn't really come as much of a surprise. Anyway, a good psychedelic hard rock album, but forget it for its supposed tape-replay.

Official Fucking Champs site

Official Trans Am site

See: Trans Am | TransChamps

Fucking Champs  (US)

Fucking Champs, 'IV'

IV  (2000,  38.32)  ****

What's a Little Reign?
Espirit de Corpse
Thor is Like Immortal
C'Mon Smash the Quotile
These Glyphs Are Dusty
I Love the Spirit World and I Love Your Father
Vangelis Again
Extra Man
Fucking Champs, 'V'

V  (2002,  38.25)  ***½

Never Enough Neck Part 1
Never Enough Neck Part 2
Children Perceive the Hoax Cluster
I am the Album Cover
Nebula Ball Rests in a Fantasy Claw
The Virtues of Cruising
Aliens of Gold
Air on a G-String
Hats Off to Music
Major Airbro's Landing
Policenauts 2000
Crummy Lovers Die in the Grave
Part Three
Happy Segovia
Chorale Motherfucker
Fucking Champs, 'VI'

VI  (2007,  42.35)  ***½

The Loge
Abide With Me
Spring Break
Fozzy Goes to Africa
A Forgotten Chapter in the History of Ideas
That Crystal Behind You? (Are You
Play on Words
Champs Fanfare
Earthen Sculptor
Dolores Park
Column of Heads

Current availability:

Around 1997, The Champs became C4AM95 (work it out), before changing again, to The Fucking Champs, allegedly as a response to their fans' nickname for them, which has apparently now become 'The Fuckin' Fucking Champs', proving that you really can't win. Their schtick is frequently drumless, mostly instrumental progressive metal that sounds nothing like any other progressive metal band (thankfully). Given their 'song' titles, are they just one big joke? If so, it's a long-running and successful one; maybe they're poking fun yet serious simultaneously? It's not unheard of; look at Kiss. Er...

A first hearing of IV is a quite startling experience; at times I'm reminded of long-lost keyboardless Brit-proggers AFT (a.k.a. Automatic Fine Tuning), with their twin-guitar approach, although I'm sure that's just coincidental. Their actual influences are more likely to be '80s and '90s metal bands; NWOBHM-2 sounds less like the actual NWOBHM than Queensrÿche gone instrumental, while the fantastically-named Thor Is Like Immortal is Queen on mogadons. The band's massed guitar harmonies are very Brian May-ish, actually. Yeah, Brian May plays Queensrÿche. Tim Soete plays pseudotron on one track; Lamplighter is a 'Mellotron' flute and acoustic guitar duet, the quietest piece on the album along with Lost, which precedes the only vocal track, Extra Man. Why sing, chaps? It only serves to spoil the mood.

The originally-titled V is not quite a carbon copy of its predecessor, but certainly follows the same path, although a musically-correct guitar version of Bach's Air On A G-String is hilariously accurate, both genius and stupidity in one fell swoop. Spinal Tap, anyone? Is the joke on us? Probably. The only thing stopping the album (best track: apart from the Bach, probably either Never Enough Neck Part 2 or another nutzoid harmony piece, Chorale Motherfucker) from getting the same rating as its predecessor is that it just seems to repeat its trick, doubtless quite deliberately. One pseudotron track, again: Part Three features the flutes quite heavily.

Five years and one personnel change later, VI finally saw the light of day in 2007. And... it's more of the same. It's a good trick, but it seems to be the only one they've got. Opener The Loge is great, A Forgotten Chapter In The History Of Ideas sounds like an instrumental Maiden/Sabbath cross, but the repeating intro riff to Earthen Sculptor has to be the album's finest moment, while Abide With Me is exactly what you think: budget Brian May. A quick thought: why do May's massed harmonies sound so much better than anyone else's? His undeniable knowledge of, er, harmony? Or because he probably put down thirty parts to everyone else's five? Or was it sixty? Anyway, on the pseudotron front, there's a minor flute part on That Crystal Behind You? (Are You Channeling), with a more major one, plus strings, on Dolores Park and strings on closer Column Of Heads.

The Fucking Champs are slightly predictable, but, er, fucking cool all the same. How can it have taken me so long to discover them? And if it hadn't been for the 'Mellotron' connection... All three albums here are worth hearing, although IV probably has the edge on the others, or is it simply that I heard it first? Incidentally, the Champs have also collaborated with Trans Am, twice, once as TransChamps and once, beautifully, as The Fucking Am (above).

Official site

See: Trans Am | TransChamps

Fulflej  (US)

Fluflej, 'Wack-Ass Tuba Riff'

Wack-Ass Tuba Riff  (1996,  54.25)  *½

Quite Like This
Work in This Universe
Senselessness Intro
Parallel to Gravity
Pretty Light Destruction
Worms to Dogs
Trust Flushed With Colors

Current availability:

Chicagoans Fulflej had Smashing Pumpkins connections; nothing to boast about, you might say. Well, I do, anyway. To my knowledge, 1996's Wack-Ass Tuba Riff (no, we don't get one) was their only album, for which we should probably be thankful, its irritating shoegaze/grunge crossover having dated pretty badly. Worst track? Probably Microwave, vocalist/mainman MC "real name unknown" No Joke G's deliberately stupid vocal merely making matters worse.

G (well, what else should we call him?), on top of his crapulent vocals, allegedly plays Mellotron, to which I have to say: I don't think so. Sample sets had become available not so long before and I get the feeling that some artists were (re)discovering the sounds, but, unable to track down a real, working machine, were perfectly happy to use eMu's awful samples; the background strings on Senselessness and flutes on Worms To Dogs sound little like a real Mellotron, anyway. No, I do not recommend that you track down a copy of this relative rarity.


Fun Machine  (US)

Fun Machine, 'Sonnenhuhn'

Sonnenhuhn  (2008,  45.14)  ***½

Sun Chicken
Blok People
Liquid Pants
Lost in Glasgow
Blok 1
Flaking Reality
Family Vapor

Current availability:

New Jersey's Fun Machine are an offbeat progressive outfit, clearly influenced by all the usual suspects: Zappa, Henry Cow, Cardiacs even. In fact, the last-named seem to be a major touchstone for the band, accentuated by Fun Machine's heavy use of a Farfisa, proving that Cardiacs have American fans, too. 2008's Sonnenhuhn (Sun Chicken, in case you needed to know) is an angular, almost avant- record, the kind that should carry on revealing hidden depths for many listens to come; if it has a failing, its wackiness quotient is possibly a shade too high, although the band largely avoid Gong-style silly voices, thankfully. Best tracks? Possibly the fifteen-minute Family Vapor, if only because it encapsulates all the band's disparate influences into one piece, although I'm not sure what's with the (deliberately?) out of tune guitar solo.

Keys man John Piatkowski sticks sampled Mellotron all over the album, strings and choir everywhere you look, to the point where I'm tempted to say they might have overused it slightly. Would you use a real Mellotron that much? Possibly, actually. Why have I not given this a higher rating? Relative immaturity; I know the band will improve with future releases, so I don't want to laud them too highly quite yet. So; well worth hearing, loads of samplotron.


Future Kings of England  (UK)

Future Kings of England, 'The Future Kings of England'

The Future Kings of England  (2005,  55.42)  ***

At Long Last...
Humble Doucy Lane
Silent and Invisible Converts
October Moth
Lilly Lockwood
The March of the Mad Clowns
God Save the King

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The Future Kings of England are a nominally progressive trio (as in, 'get reviewed on progressive sites'), but are actually more like a metal version of post-rock (!); think: Godspeed on overdrive. The (genuinely) wittily-titled 10:66 is a highlight, while I was amused by opener At Long Last..., which sounds like a recording of King Edward VIII's abdication speech, but most of the rest of the album does that usual 'crescendo rock' thing, only louder.

Steven Mann plays sampled Mellotron choir and string parts on the post-rockish Humble Doucy Lane, flutes on Silent And Invisible Converts and strings and/or choir on several other tracks, although you'd never mistake them for the real thing. Don't get me wrong, this album definitely has its moments, but nearly an hour of loud, instrumental crescendo stuff can become wearing well before it's over.


Future Sound of London  (UK)

Future Sound of London, 'Papua New Guinea Translations'

Papua New Guinea Translations  (2001,  63.12)  ***

Translation 1: 12" Original
Translation 2: Papsico
Translation 3: The Lovers
Translation 4: Wooden Ships
Translation 5: The Great Marmalade Mama in the Sky
Translation 6: Requiem
Translation 7: Things Change Like the Patterns and Shades That Fall From the Sun
Translation 8: The Big Blue

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The Future Sound of London (or FSoL) have dipped into most 'dance' styles over the course of their career, not least techno, drum'n'bass and ambient, leaving those of us on the outside slightly bewildered. Where does one genre begin and another end? Which is which? Does anyone actually care anyway? 2001's Papua New Guinea Translations seems to be where the duo (Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans) officially over-reached themselves, giving us no fewer than eight remixes of Papua New Guinea, supposedly their 'classic'. Admittedly, it's interesting to see how many ways talented studio types (which they undoubtedly are) can treat a piece of music, although over an hour of this stuff is pretty mind-numbing for the unconverted. But then, it wasn't made for us; it was made for their fans and if they like it, who are the rest of us to complain?

Psych influences are definitely creeping in here; Translation 8: The Big Blue features some very Floydian organ, while Translation 6: Requiem features harmonica and plucked banjo over 'Mellotron' string and choir parts from Mike Rowe, although I so strongly suspect they're samples that the album's gone straight to this section; the choirs sound OK, but the strings are far too smooth for their own good. Cobain and Dougans subsequently split their psych alter-egos off as Amorphous Androgynous, presumably keeping their FSoL moniker for their more dance-orientated projects.

Anyway, if you don't like 'dance music', whatever you may consider that to be, don't even think about listening to this record. What little Mellotron it has is probably sampled and isn't exactly groundbreaking, anyway.

Official site

See: Amorphous Androgynous | Robert Miles

Fyreworks  (UK)

Fyreworks, 'The Fyreworks'

The Fyreworks  (1997,  49.12)  ***

Master Humphries' Clock
The War Years
The Consequences of Indecision
Broken Skies
The Display

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Danny Chang discovered progressive rock in his teens in the early '70s, eventually writing a set of material that was never recorded. Twenty-something years on, although only able to recall 'a couple of chord sequences', Chang put a band together in a similar vein, as prog became more acceptable again, including Cyan's Rob Reed on keys. The Fyreworks is actually rather better than I'd expected, partly due to reasonable songwriting, partly various guest musicians' contributions on flute and stringed instruments, although Andy Edwards' vocalising is pure neo-prog. Compositionally speaking, opener Master Humphries' Clock has an occasional air of England about it, mostly in the bass work, while The War Years heavily recalls Genesis' Entangled, although parts of Stowaway sail (sorry) too close to solo Rick Wakeman for comfort and did they really think no-one would notice the Yes cop on the lengthy Broken Skies?

Unsurprisingly, given Reed's involvement, the Mellotrons here are sampled (most keyboard parts are pseudo-analogue), with strings on Master Humphries' Clock, Stowaway and Broken Skies, plus flutes on the last-named. This album's a bit of a curate's egg, to be honest; plenty of good bits sitting amongst not so good bits. Although I wouldn't call the album overlong, maybe ten of the not-so-good minutes could've been trimmed to make a really good effort. It seems this was a one-off, Chang having moved into production, while Reed and drummer Tim Robinson subsequently formed the tedious Magenta, but I've heard an awful lot worse from mostly neo-prog musicians than this. Now long out of print, this is worth hearing as a kind of second-rung '70s impersonation. But why the fireworks sound effects at the end?

See: Cyan | Magenta

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