There must be something about the landscape around Bristol, England, that incites its denizens to travel ever deeper inward in order to find inspiration for their art. Not at all dissimilar to the contemporaneous trip-hop scene that flourishes at its doorstep, Flying Saucer Attack creates a trance-like, decidedly cerebral sound — albeit without the vaguest insinuation of danceability. There’s an eerie, elusive bliss in the collaborations between home-recording wizards Rachel Brook and David Pearce — kind of like an elongation of that sensorily unbound moment when wakefulness is about to give way to sleep.
The duo’s self-titled debut is an amorphous compendium of loopy (literally) sonic explorations, dense and feedback-studded one moment, rapturously pastoral the next. Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough of the latter element (other than a transfiguring number called “Popol Vuh 1,” which bears a passing spiritual resemblance to the prog-rock band of the same name) to merit more than a cursory listen. On Distance, Pearce and Brook wield similar tools, but build a considerably more stimulating series of structures. Acoustic instrumentation (including an alluring oboe line that wafts through “Instrumental Wish”) improves things, but even the more rock-tempered tracks (like the Can soundalike “Standing Stone”) project a sensation of preternatural calm.
One side effect of the upswing in digital technology is the lack of good headphone records, but Further is a doozy in the lie-back-and-enjoy-it category. Moments here bear passing resemblance to My Bloody Valentine (“Rainstorm Blues”) and the Jesus and Mary Chain (the attentively manipulated feedback patterns of “Come and Close My Eyes”); still, the reticent use of vocals (they’re buried deep enough to survive an H-bomb blast) and avoidance of rock accouterments lends a more elusive vibe to this set of remarkably intimate songs. Chorus ventures a bit further into technological overload, employing an impressive array of proudly synthetic computer fuzz on “Feedback Song” and the wee-hour traipse “There but Not There.” An inner sleeve note cautions that Chorus “marks the end of FSA phase one…when we return with phase two, who knows where the wind blows…”
For further study: Brook and a woman named Kate play as Movietone and released a self-titled album in the UK in 1995. Matt Elliot, who has added percussion and clarinet to a number of FSA records and joins the group for its rare live appearances, is the Third Eye Foundation, with a couple of British albums to his credit. True aficionados may also know of Linda’s Strange Vacation, an unrecorded early-’90s assembly of Brook, Elliot, Kate and, occasionally, Pearce. FOEhn, which made its debut with Insideout Eyes (each CD boasting a uniquely hand-painted cover!), was led by Debbie Parsons, another Bristol scenester who worked with Third Eye Foundation and Movietone. Brook and Elliot both took part on the album, which is self-indulgent home-brew weirdness that has an irresistible charm.