FM — Direct to Disc
(Esoteric Recordings ECLECM2377, 1978/2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2013-04-01
The re-releases of this Canadian trio's albums are long overdue. Seems like some label reissued the debut Black Noise back in the early 90s, but never finished the job. Esoteric has re-released Black Noise, this (the band's second LP) and announced the next two after that. This one is unique in that it was recorded using a direct-to-disc process similar that used in the early days of recording, without the intermediate step of making a master tape. It consists of two long tracks, "Headroom" and "Border Crossing," essentially multi-part suites, mostly instrumental and rife with improvisation; each took up a full side of the original LP (and because of this process, that was limited to around 15 minutes). Original violinist / mandolinist Nash the Slash had moved on with his bandages to a solo career after the first album, and was replaced by Ben Mink, here in his first recorded appearance with the band, joining Cameron Hawkins (bass, keys) and drummer Martin Deller.
I've had the LP of this since the early 80s and have played it 200 times if I've played it once, to the point where I know every little sonic detail. I was surprised that the CD sounds a bit different: "Headroom" sounds fairly close the LP, but "Border Crossing" sounds like an alternate take! The liner notes state there were two LP releases: The first one had the familiar "FM" logo at the top, with "Direct to Disc" just below it. On the second release, it says "Head Room" at the top and "Direct to Disc" just below it. In smaller print at the bottom we see "Limited edition rock recording featuring progressive rock trio FM." There's also an explanation why what I'm hearing on the CD is not the same as the LP that I'm familiar with (that LP is the second release), which has to do with the limitations of the direct-to-disc process: "The band did about four takes of each track, each of which was put onto a separate lacquer. The fourth take of each was deemed the best, and was used in the initial release... There was a limit to how many copies could be pressed up. Each lacquer could be used to create roughly 20,000 to 30,000 copies. This is because only one set of metal stamps could be made from each lacquer... After 26,000 copies were sold, to meet demand, the record company released the 'next-best' performances of the two compositions." What's puzzling is why Esoteric, who are usually fairly generous about including bonus tracks, didn't put both versions of "Headroom" and "Border Crossing" on the CD release, especially since both LP sides are only about 15 minutes each. Nonetheless, it's good to have this –easily the band's finest moment, in an official CD release.
Related artist(s): FM
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more