The Future Sound of London
Dead Cities


4.0
excellent

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
November 2nd, 2007 | 31 replies | 12,728 views


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Future Sound of London blow off mainstream success in favor of releasing a dark and unsettling album of ambient soundscapes.

Back in the 90’s when Electronica bands suddenly started selling millions of albums people began calling it the next big thing; the thing that was going to kill Grunge the same way Grunge had killed metal less then a decade earlier… it never happened. If there were ever a group of musicians who didn’t want the exposure, it seems to have been the bands lumped into the newly-formed “Electronica” genre. The Prodigy disappeared and didn’t release another album for almost seven years, Front 242 released two albums of the most noisy and aggressive material in their entire career, Underworld released album after album of chilled-out 10-plus minute songs, and The Orb just got more and more strange. The Future Sound of London is also guilty of doing their best to force the mainstream to leave them alone. After a critically acclaimed double album full of soothing soundscapes called Lifeforms, people predicted that their next album would place them firmly in the mainstream; these people hadn’t heard the new album called Dead Cities.

Instead of more soothing ambient soundscapes, people were given a dark, depressing album with many moments of dissonance. Whereas the previous album made you feel like you were on some other planet’s lush jungle environment simply watching the daily happenings, this one made you feel like you were indeed in a dead city, and the city had not just died peacefully. Disembodied voices are heard during the songs such as the voice that says, “I had killed a man, a man that looked like me,” or the voice of a child whispering “Make me believe I’m not going to die”. In addition, the songs took on a darker edge due to their tones, somber melodies, and the nature of their random noises. Another element that adds to the unease created on this album is due to the increased use of dissonant sounds, as well as the start/stop nature of the beats that keeps the listener slightly on edge. The disembodied voices, darker synth sounds, and use of dissonance all combined to create an album that could never break into the mainstream, and it’s a great album.

It starts off with “Herd Killing” which has a start/stop beat with random noises played over it; it’s a short song and the perfect element to bring you into the heart of this city. As soon as that song ends and you’ve entered the city, a voice “welcomes” you with the words mentioned earlier, “I had killed a man, a man that looked like me.” As soon as the words are uttered a dark, deep synth line comes in over some chaotic, yet subdued beats. As it progresses it subtly morphs by adding different sounds including higher pitched squeals, additional synths, a depressing flute melody, and more random voices. It ends with one of those voices that seems like it is singing from out of the depths of some place it can’t escape.

After another track meant to help you continue wandering through this dead city we come to the “single” of the album called “We Have Explosives”. First of all, other then having the most consistent beat on the album there is nothing that could be called “single quality” about it. It is the noisiest track on the album, with almost every sound being some kind of atonal noise, with additional samples that include an echoing robotic voice saying “We Have Explosives” and another person simply yelling “alright” at various intervals. Also, whereas other songs on the album slowly morph as they progress, this song just wallows in redundancy; basically what you hear in the first two minutes is the same as what you hear in the last two minutes. It is definitely the weakest track on the album and also ruins the vibe of the album overall.

After the “single” that should have really just been left off the album, things get back on track with the song “Everyone in the World is Doing Something Without Me”. This song is just a transitional track that consists of someone half singing the title of the song over an eerie synth line before fading into a few female voices that signal the coming of the best song on the album, “My Kingdom”. This song makes it feel like you’re now moving through the city and seeing various aspects as they pass by. The main feeling of movement is due to the rolling nature of the beats, as well as some reversed beats that give the impression of things passing by you. Again, the music on top of these beats is dark and made up of random sounds as much as it is actual melodies. The element that makes this one of the best songs is that the melodies and sounds will stick in your head long after the song has ended, and they also do a great job of continuing to create the atmosphere of the album.

The journey continues on in much the same fashion as previous songs, utilizing disquieting samples of voices to accentuate random sounds and dark synth lines all playing over start/stop beats that often change rhythm throughout a song. Other then the single, “We Have Explosives”, this album does not fail in its goal to bring you through this city and have you experience all the tribulations within it. Anyone who has experienced Ulver’s Perdition City album and liked it owes it to themselves to find this because it is my opinion that Dead Cities had more then a little influence on that album. For others that aren’t usually into electronic music, but do like darker sounds, this may be a good starting point for them as well. The people that might have the biggest problem with this album are the ones that are used to the happier, more energetic electronica that gets played on the radio from time to time. For them, if they can give it a chance and get past the dark atmosphere and lack of consistent beats, they may find their journey through the dead city an enjoyable one too.



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user ratings (87)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
superfascist
November 2nd 2007



118 Comments


A couple of years ago I read something that compared Envy to a band called Yage, so I was curious and looked for Yage on Soulseek, but accidentally got the song off of this album. I listened to it and I thought, "What the hell, this doesn't sound anything like Envy at all."

Yeah, I just felt like sharing that. Other than that, I have no idea what this band sounds like. But maybe I'll check it out more sometime. This album sounds a bit interesting.

Kaleid
November 2nd 2007



710 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good to see this reviewed. Nice job.
This is rather bleak sometimes, but in a good way. I like the way it finishes with First Death In The Family

Monticello
November 2nd 2007



805 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No way, I was actually gonna review this!

Willie
Moderator
November 2nd 2007



15877 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Superfascist: This album is definitely worth seeking out if you're into this kind of music...

Kaleid: I totally agree that it's bleak, but in a good way. That's what gives this album its own character.

Monticello: So, review Lifeforms... it needs a review and it will be damn challenging to do it justice.



Digging: Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse - 20th Year Anniversary

astrel
November 2nd 2007



2614 Comments


this sounds really awesome

Monticello
November 2nd 2007



805 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't have Lifeforms...
Still, you did a much better review than what mine would be, so all's well.

Willie
Moderator
November 2nd 2007



15877 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It is really awesome, anyone into the newer Ulver stuff would probably like this too.

You don't have Lifeforms??? Well, if you don't have it then maybe I'll review it.This Message Edited On 11.02.07

joshuatree
Emeritus
November 3rd 2007



3743 Comments


Good review man, this shit sounds tight

Willie
Moderator
November 5th 2007



15877 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is really good... I don't see anything on your album ratings that would tell me that you might like this though...

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 13th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This isn't as good as Lifeforms, but it's pretty awesome. In A State of Permanent Abyss is really cool.

Willie
Moderator
September 13th 2008



15877 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yeah, definitely. I still want to review Lifeforms eventually, but it's going to be a huge pain in the ass probably. I really like "My Kingdom". Did you ever see the video for that song?

Merkaba33
February 23rd 2009



702 Comments


this looks interesting. you think i'd be into this willie?

Willie
Moderator
February 23rd 2009



15877 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's possible. Since you like Skinny Puppy you have a good chance of being open to a lot of this album. Check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ss0peoW9bA

Merkaba33
February 23rd 2009



702 Comments


cool, i'll look into this when i get the chance.

sifFlammable
February 11th 2011



2741 Comments


interesting how the cd art (not the album cover) is the same one as lifeform's album art

scissorlocked
March 20th 2011



3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album really has that pretty weird atmosphere which gives you the impression that you're somewhere in a dystopic city or one like in Bladerunner for example

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Gyromania
March 20th 2011



15200 Comments


That album cover is strangely appealing to me. I've only heard Lifeforms and I loved it.

scissorlocked
March 20th 2011



3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Lifeforms is maybe their best, bit this is also great, so don't be afraid to check it out!

it's quite different than Lifeforms but still has brilliant tracks and flows superbly

Gyromania
March 20th 2011



15200 Comments


Thanks for the rec, will definitely look into this sometime soon. Anything else by The Future Sound... that I should pick up?

scissorlocked
March 20th 2011



3508 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

well, they've got a pretty big discography and there's plenty of interesting stuff that I've never listened to

as far as I know, Accelerator is a fun,dance friendly album that's totally enjoyable, but as you've loved Lifeforms you'll maybe prefer to check the From the Archive vol 1,2,3. The three Enviroments albums were also good imo!





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