Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Similarly Requested CDs
Overlooked today, but still entertaining
Brandon T. Isleib | Montgomery, AL | 07/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I will first say that I was only about 5 years old when this album came out; I only became acquainted with it through a CD store closeout where this album was 25 cents. Still, I have a fair bit of knowledge about the early '90s ambient house scene (I've got most Orb albums, plus this, Deep Forest, Enigma, and Opus III), so I can at least compare to those and talk about my thoughts on the album in general.
Fortran 5 is a bit like the Orb in that their work was not designed to be taken particularly seriously. The lack of pretense in this album is welcome, and should appeal to those who may find ambient music too eggheaded. This is ambient house music pretty much because nothing else applies; the supporting synthesizer work is generally of the ambient strain, but the rest is pure goofiness. Thus, even though the album sounds like the product of its era, its humor helps it transcend those limits. Mute Records should have a preview of the entire album; if not, find some of the music videos from this album. A track-by-track breakdown follows:
1. Groove - an early '90s style of groove putting a slow funk beat and some piano around the main guitar riff from "Tequila." It sounds vaguely like the last theme song to the Cosby Show (the theme that's playing in the "graffiti wall" version of the intro). It would be a decent song anyway, but the sampling of "Tequila" helps it be memorable.
2. Heart on the Line - a moderate club hit, this song was mixed by Vince Clarke by Erasure and is a fairly Erasure-sounding song, except that the vocals are alternately spoken-word female and ethereal female. Very sequencer-heavy. It's somewhere at the intersection of Erasure, Giorgio Moroder, and Enigma, assuming that intersection exists.
3. Two Curious Friends - one of my favorites based on the old movie sample that provides the title. A simple funky song (good beat!) enhanced by the strange vocal samples.
4. Blues, Pt. 1 - there's not a whole lot to say about this song or its subsequent two parts - they're the most minimal tracks on the album, and one barely notices they're there other than being random noises.
5. XX21 - features electric guitar (an interesting choice), an upbeat tempo, and a vocal sample that sounds somewhat like it's teasing in a neener-nanny kind of way. Not an amazing track, but interesting on its own terms.
6. Look to the Future - this one may be the gem of the album, a quirky club number with Larry Graham (bassist from Sly and the Family Stone) providing his emotive and gritty vocals (with some very interesting choices of octaves) and his funky bass pretty much making the track. The music video for this one is out there, so if you're curious, you can hear the whole song. Definitely one of the better club hits of the ambient house scene., with some dance potential even today.
7. Bike (Sid Sings Syd) - this track is where Fortran 5 gets a lot of its notoriety. Taking snippets from Sid James movies and stringing them together in a way that recites the lyrics to Syd Barrett's "Bike," usually with only one word at a time. The whole thing is given a mid-tempo house groove. The vocal samples sound very, very chopped (they have to be, for being one word at a time), and Fortran 5 didn't even bother to change speeds or pitches on the samples, so the whole thing sounds totally warped for its discontinuity, which makes it deliciously leftfield. The concept itself is wacky enough; the fact that they managed to do the concept justice makes this a novelty early '90s song even better than the oddball qualities of the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds." Even if you don't buy the album, you need to hear at least this song.
8. Love Baby - another club hit (the video is out there for this one too), it features some standard ambient sixteenth-note sequenced synthesizers. Definitely a product of the early '90s, but a fairly satisfying one musically, in that the beat is just funky enough to make it more than four-on-the-floor material.
9. Blues, Pt. 2 - see comment for Blues, Pt. 1.
10. Inanga - actually a fairly decent ambient piece. Somewhat along the lines of a soundtrack song, it's fairly subdued save for the vocal samples. It's actually of length enough for it to be developed like a normal techno song (most of the others don't clear 5 minutes and are developed essentially like a pop song as a result). The overlooked gem of the album.
11. Crazy Earth - along the lines of "Love Baby" but more ambient than sequenced, with strings in the back. It comes off a bit like the Orb's "Into the Fourth Dimension," which is not a bad thing.
12. Midnight Trip (Tubby Noise Mix) - an ambient dub piece with some odd vocal samples. Not particularly remarkable, but decent.
13. Blues, Pt. 3 - same as for Pts. 1 and 2.
Two remixes close the album out, and they're not too far different from the originals to get much comment.
This album does sound dated and a product of the early '90s (I like that sound on its own merits, so that's no problem for me). But Fortran 5's cheekiness about the whole project keeps this from being merely another early '90s dance album; it makes the dated quality of the music sound intentional and consequently makes the whole album greater than its parts. Would I spend full price on this? Probably not. But rarely do you have to do that with this album - I would be happy if I had paid even $[...] or $[...] for it. If you like leftfield dance music (not to be confused with the group Leftfield, who's also good), and if you think the early '90s is kinda funny, then this is the album for you."