Here comes another (post-humous?) FSOL album, "Environments 4." There's been quite a large stack of material released by FSOL over the past several years, ranging from the "From the Archives" series (six volumes) to "Environments" to one by Yage and a couple others that escape me at the moment. I say "post-humous" with a question mark because it's always been unclear if this material was done years ago or is new material. Personally, I've felt much of the material has been "hit and miss"; I've made some nice personal compilations out of these releases, with a few tracks culled from each release, but overall I think the quality has been lacking compared to their 90's heyday. The "Environments" series began a few years ago with an album that was supposedly going to be released when Future Sound of London were making it big around '94 but the idea was scrapped (possibly because the material was one big "soundscape" and primarily beatless?). The series has continued with material that has been more "experimental" and "sound-scapey" than FSOL's main releases or their alter-ego, Amorphous Androgynous.
The previous Environments, "Environments 3," was released about 2008 I believe and I thought the album was terrible, full of cold metallic noodlings that was far removed from the FSOL I know and love.
Glad to report "Environments 4" is a fine return to form and probably the most varied and FSOL-like of the whole series, running the gamut from Vangelis-like string anthems to tribal space jams and cyber jazz. Again, purchasers of the physical product are treated to more stunning visual digital imagery from the illustrious Buggy G Riphead. Even if you don't care for the music on these releases, you have to admit they are almost works of visual art in themselves!
"Environments 4" begins in dreamy fashion with "The Wheel of Life," employing lush strings and sighing female vox. "River Delta" then changes the pace up and plays like a dark and moody Dead Can Dance type piece complete with Peter Gabriel-esque tribal percussion, brooding synth chords, bird sounds, and choral female vox. "Architektur" is a similar piece, which adds some flute samples and more jazzy rhythms. "Murmurations," one of the album's highlights, is a fascinating cyber jazz workout with middle eastern strings, trancey free-falling drums, and exotic textural flutters.
Overall, "Environments 4" is one of the most rewarding of the "new/old" FSOL releases in recent memory, and definitely recommended to fans of the group's 90's glory days.