F/i — A Question for the Somnambulist
(Submergence SUB 5006, 2003, CD)
by Paul Hightower, Published 2007-03-01
Since they appeared on the scene back in the 80s, Milwaukee-based F/i have established themselves among the forefront of American psych rock bands. Originally issued in 2003 (and now re-issued on the Strange Attractors label with a bonus track), this disk has held up as one of the best recent examples of its kind. Song titles like “Hit the Kill Switch, Eugene” and “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Daisy Cutter” don’t adequately convey the heights to which this quartet reach with their hallucinatory musical excursions. The songs range from the quasi-improvised, psych-rock of early Pink Floyd (“Uber-Wizards of the 88th Meridian”) to 70s German electronic rock a la Guru Guru (“Surgical Procedures on the Ship”) to Djam Karet’s early jamming space rock sound (“Using Enemy Weapons”). The psych immersion really deepens with the vaguely Middle Eastern tonalities and ambient textures of “No Pepsi in Kabul” and here Grant Richter’s electronics and synths guide the way, rather than providing their usual ornamental role on songs where guitarists Brian Wensing and Richard Franecki are the focus. Though heavily based on improvisations, the band operates with a unity of purpose that prevents most of the material from veering into the sort of indulgent jamming that can become quickly tiresome (though the 15 minute title track briefly tested my patience). On the whole there’s little to complain about and fans of early krautrock and hardcore psych owe it to themselves to check this one out.
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