The Future Sound Of London ‎– Environments 4

Label: ‎– CD TOT 66
CD, Album


1 The Wheel Of Life 3:57
2 No Man's Land 1:15
3 River Delta 4:10
4 Supercontinents 2:01
5 Sediment 2:52
6 Architektur 5:13
7 Murmurations 6:27
8 Sunsets 3:31
9 Photosynthesis 2:34
10 Stand A Little Less Between Me And The Sun 1:42
11 Fibrillation 5:43
12 Long Day 2:41
13 Vast Landscape 5:21
14 Clear Light Of Reality 2:37

Companies, etc.



Remixed and Enhanced at The Church Of St Michael's.
Additional Input 2012.

Distributed in the UK by Essential Music & Marketing
Made In England

© 2012

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Barcode (Text): 5 013993 906629
  • Barcode (Scanned): 5013993906629
  • Matrix / Runout: PAS CDTOT66
  • Mastering SID Code: IFPI LP76
  • Mould SID Code: IFPI 5H42
  • Rights Society: mcps

Other Versions (3 of 3) View All

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
none The Future Sound Of London Environments 4(15xFile, MP3, Album, 320) none UK 2012
LP TOT 66 The Future Sound Of London Environments 4(LP, Album, 140) LP TOT 66 UK 2014 Sell This Version
LP TOT 66 The Future Sound Of London Environments 4(LP, Album, Ltd, 180) LP TOT 66 UK 2014 Sell This Version


Reviews Show All 11 Reviews

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March 31, 2015

(NOTE: The following was actually written back in 2012 and was supposed to go on my now-defunct blog but never made it online. I've just uncovered it on my hard-drive and figure it's worth posting here.)

There are few more reliable indicators of legendary status in dance music than reviews that open with obligatory career summaries. You can’t write about the FSOL, it seems, without using the words “Manchester”, “rave”, “seminal”, “Papua New Guinea” and “Lifeforms” in the opening paragraph. They actually go one further on the legendometer by being one of an extremely select group of names whose albums are always in the Dance section of even the most parochial of HMV outlets. When you think about it, career retrospectives of such famous names are pretty redundant, especially in a post-Wikipedia world. Who doesn’t know who the FSOL are in this day and age? They even turned up in a question on University Challenge, for chrissake! It’s almost like dance music has to comfortingly remind itself of its own historic significance, lest anyone notice how ephemerally shitty it all is.

Except the FSOL, in fitting with their deliberately enigmatic and difficult self-image, are pretty much the only one of those hardy HMV perennials (your Prodigys, your Orbitals, your Mobys) who break the mould. For a start, you won’t actually read any reviews of their new albums (present ramblings of a madman excepted, naturally) because only about five people know they are still making new music, and one of those five people is my dog. Their new material certainly won’t be turning up on the shelf in HMV, Doncaster any time soon, because the FSOL severed their ties with Virgin Records over a decade ago and now self-publish with only fan hype to sustain them.

Usually, once an act passes into HMV-approved mythology, they will never, ever match up to those albums and singles mentioned into the bios that open all those reviews. Honestly, when you see the TV ad for a new Chemical Brothers album, do you <i>genuinely</i> think they’re going to come close to the alchemic genius of their early output? Of course not. The new album is definitely going to sell at least 50,000 copies just because it’s the Chemical Brothers, and because it’ll be stocked in every HMV in the land, so why try harder? Even Orbital, who had the cheek to make a pretty good comeback album this year, only did so while trading liberally on their own back catalogue. Orbital are basically done as a creative force, and so are all their peers. They’ve all been done since approximately 2002, when the first retro compilations started appearing and everyone realised the rave thing had happened a decade ago.

The Future Sound Of London are, strangely not done. Far from it. They may have handed back their key to the treasury by quitting the major label, but they’re never going to run out of royalties with those classic albums selling quietly away in the background and Papua New Guinea guaranteed at least three new remixes every year between now and the advent of malevolent self-aware AI sentience and the ensuing crushing robot apocalypse (and even then I wouldn’t rule out Papua New Guinea 2039 - Skynet’s Electro Refix being pressed as an exclusive one-sided release on Garry Cobain’s charred torso). With just enough money drip-feeding through to ensure they’ll not go hungry, the band can retreat back to their FSOLDigital platform and do whatever the hell they want, even if nobody is going to hear it. And they are somehow managing to make some of the very best music of their entire career, more than twenty years after starting out.

This is a band you don’t have to sum up retrospectively. Who gives a shit that they made Lifeforms? Environments 4 is even better. The first Environments was pretty duff, but that was because it was a deliberate pastiche of their classic ‘90s sound, and as if embarrassed by this slip-up, the band have compensated by putting out three more Environments records that are melon-twistingly different from the FSOL we know and love, and yet retain all the qualities that made their music so characteristic in the first place.

Environments 4, musically, follows on generally as the last two left off – it’s a genreless blur of neo-classical sweeps, dense ambient collages, field-recorded oddness and twisted electronic brain violence. In terms of mood, however, it’s a subtle move on from the fragmented beauty of Environments 3, towards a more primordial realm of vast, untouched landscapes, with more focus and expansion of each track. Each of the last three Environments has opened with a orchestral flourish, and Wheel Of Time is the most epic introductory act yet, rays of sun unfolding across the panorama of the next four tracks. The mid-section is focused on a trio of outstanding rhythmic pieces, the Dead Cities-esque tumultuous anti-funk of Arkitectur leading into the haunting prog-jazz jam of Murmurations and then into the sublime Sunsets. Towards the end of the album things get dark and minimalist, and it’s certainly arguable that Fibrillation and Vast Landscape outstay their welcome, but the darkness is lifted suddenly with the fantastically named Clear Light Of Reality, where the symphonic opening of the album suddenly reprises out of the murk and closes the album with a flourish. If I had to describe the overall impression with a lazy journalistic technique, I’d tell you to imagine the widescreen soundscapes of Environments 2 overlaid with the surrealist stylistic brushstrokes of Environments 3, augmented by a little streak of the live jamming of Amorphous Androgynous. However, you’ve no idea what that even fucking means, so I’ll tell you to simply listen to the damn thing and envisage your own oneiric dreamscape.

When I reviewed Environments 3 I said it was my favourite FSOL album. For much of Environments 4, I actually thought they had gone one better. The slightly dreary section near the end took the gloss off slightly – it’s not that I don’t like those tracks, they just go on for far longer than is necessary to make the point, and ruin the pacing a little. That said, Environments 4 is 3/4ths of the way to being the best thing this legendary act have done, and certainly an album that makes 9/10ths of the music you’ll hear in 2012 sound alarmingly uninventive. Apparently there’s a bonus track called Plough that can easily replace Fibrillation and make the whole album even better, but I bought my copy through Amazon and don’t get any bonuses. Bastards.

Genre: Surrealism
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10


May 26, 2012
edited over 5 years ago

It's not bad, but I can't help but what wonder what long-term value does this album have when FSOL pumps out another every year?

To be honest, this is the underlying problem with most forms of ambient/drone/experimental/etc. Many artists just put out album after album, hour after hour of new material. What's the point?


May 18, 2012

Stop bitching and just listen to this record as if you didn't know FSOL or Amorphous Androgynous! I'm sure you'll find this one pretty amazing. It has indeed all the FSOL and AA elements in it, and it indeed is quite similar to Lifeforms of even alice in ultraland. If you were expecting a new FSOL release this is what it would sound like. if you were expecting an new AA release. Well this is what it would sound like! This one sounds far more exciting and better than anything coming out this year so far!! it's the perfect mix of electronica meeting organic elements and yeah even majestically integrating progrock elements! I'm a fan guys and this will never leave!!!


May 15, 2012
This new Amorphous Androgynous release (yes, i know what i am saying) is really the opportune time for me to say a couple of things.
First of all, it seems to me a bit cringeworthy to make any sort of reference to Lifeforms when talking about E4, as i have read across the internet and here at discogs as well. I can't find the organic feeling and the harmony that defined Lifeforms here, in the first place.
This is purely an AA record, and if it was labelled as such, and not as FSOL, i would have probably enjoyed it better. This might sound unfair, but what we actually are witnessing is the end of The Future Sound Of London and the reign of Amorphous Androgynous. I wish they had simply made a compilation or even a boxset of old tunes, instead of mixing them with new ones for the last couple of releases. The selection should have been stricter, because i find this recent excess of FSOL material to be messy and unclear.
Maybe i am not the FSOL fan i thought i was. But that's another question. The truth is that i can't be impressed by their releases anymore.

I won't low rate this release, as it's not my intention to sacrifice it. There are great moments here, but overall is pretty uninteresting and not challenging enough for my ears.
What i just left is a statement of how disappointed i am with one of my favorite group of musicians of all time.


May 12, 2012

the Backwards Sound of London's new realease, if you're hard to get sleeping , try this, no rythm, no cool samples, no thmbal effects, just one word -- normal...


May 10, 2012

With each successive 'Environments' release, FSOL fans ask the same question: 'is this the new album?' Whilst the mixture of old and new material on volumes 2 and 3 was largely successful, it did still leave us wanting an entire album of freshly recorded material. It is with some excitement, then, that Environments 4 seems to be just the album people have been waiting for.

Although the record contains the familiar FSOL mixture of ambience, beats and samples, it is fair to say that nothing here really sounds like the band's 1990s output. Despite some exotic sounding track titles - and field recordings to match - this is not a Lifeforms retread: where that album pulsated with loop-based electronica, Environments 4 feels largely freeform, with looser song structures and slightly jam-based numbers. It is clear that the duo's dabblings with psychedelia as The Amorphous Androgynous have had an influence here, not only on Murmurations (which would fit quite comfortably on an Amorphous record), but also the rolling acoustic percussion of River Delta, and Sunsets, with a loose organ and piano arrangement sitting alongside more acoustic drums and even a synth solo. The bulk of the album, however, comes in the form of acoustic ambient collages. Tracks like Supercontinents, Sediment and Stand a Little Less... ebb and flow with tropical birds, ocean waves, synth washes, sitar drones and acoustic guitar; yet there is the familiar dark undercurrent ever-present in FSOL's music that refuses to let these tracks cross over into new age schmaltz. The album's thematically linked opener and closer are the highlights, with a symphonic beauty that is almost overwhelming, particularly in the electric piano and string arrangements.

Somewhere in the second half of the album things do lose their way a little, with Fibrillation and Vast Landscape both lacking structural variation, and sounding somewhat stark and empty in comparison to the lush soundscapes of the opening section. The tracks don't completely derail the album, although sat right near the end, they do slow it down at the point where it needs to reach a climax, and add just a touch of disappointment to an otherwise fantastic record.

Overall, Environments 4 is not just another excellent record by FSOL, it is the first record since Dead Cities that shows a real stride forward into a new direction. Dougans and Cobain have successfully tied together the classical ambience of the previous Environments volumes with elements of Amorphous Androgynous and their other experimental side projects, to finally deliver a definitive statement of where the band stand musically today. And a couple of subpar tracks aside, it seems like a great place to stand. Highly recommended.


May 9, 2012
This is a great piece of work by the FSOL guys again another master piece it gave me the feeling as if its a continues of LIFEFORMS & its what makes me love it more i will keep buying the albums as they never failed me yet with there fsol albums congrats to them both on this album 9/10


May 4, 2012
A great electronic band at one time - now just milking fans with album after album of unreleased material (which is far to similar from release to release!)