The Future Sound of London

The Future Sound of London (often abbreviated to FSOL) are a prolific British electronic music band comprised of Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans. The duo are often credited with pushing the boundaries of electronic music experimentation and of pioneering a new era of dance music.

Although often labelled as ambient, Cobain and Dougans usually resist being typecast into any one particular genre. Their work covers most areas of electronic music, such as ambient techno, drum and bass, trip-hop, ambient dub, acid techno and often involves extreme experimentation; for example they have, since the turn of the millennium, experimented with psychedelic rock under their Amorphous Androgynous alias.

The artists have been fairly enigmatic in the past but have become more candid with their fanbase in recent years with social websites like Myspace, Youtube, their forum and many interviews in which Cobain almost always speaks for them both. In addition to music composition, their interests have covered a number of areas including film and video, 2D and 3D computer graphics, animation in making almost all their own videos for their singles, radio broadcasting and creating their own electronic devices for sound making.



Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans met in the mid 1980s whilst studying electronics at university in Manchester, England. Dougans had already been making electronic music for some time, working between Glasgow and Manchester, when they first began working in various local clubs. In 1988, Dougans embarked on a project for the Stakker graphics company. The result was Stakker Humanoid. Cobain contributed to the accompanying album. A video was also produced.In the following three years the pair produced music under a variety of aliases, releasing a plethora of singles and EPs, including the successful acid house "Q" and "Metropolis" singles, some of which would end up on the duo's first compilation album "Earthbeat"'' in 1992. Metropolis was also very influential in the house scene.


In 1991 they released their first album as The Future Sound of London, "Accelerator" which was followed by their seminal breakthrough ambient-dub track "Papua New Guinea" featuring a looping Lisa Gerrard vocal sample and a bassline from Meat Beat Manifesto's "Radio Babylon", which was their first official single release; the track remains arguably their most recognizable and celebrated song, it has made several (British) " songs ever" polls and track specific accolades.. "Accelerator" was very much a club-friendly techno album and remains their only studio album in this vein to this day; it was praised for its unique sound and atmosphere. In 1992 Virgin Records were looking for electronic bands and quickly signed them.
With their newfound contract they immediately began to experiment with more ambient music, resulting in the "Tales of Ephidrina" album of 1993, the first album to be released under the Amorphous Androgynous alias; this was well received by press and marked an almost complete shift from the more techno driven "Accelerator".

"Lifeforms" followed in 1994 to critical acclaim. The new work featured unconventional use of percussion interspersed with cyclopean ambient segments. The eponymous single from the album featured Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins on vocals. The album was a top 10 hit on the UK album chart and remains their most popular opus. The album featured epic, cyclopean, ambient soundscapes and almost had a life of its own, each track flowing from one to the next with no pauses in between tracks. Cobain has said that around this time that journalists would come to talk to them and one of the first things they would ask would be if they liked Brian Eno (whom they cite as an influence) to which they would laugh and say that actually they were about looking forward not to the past, it was, to them, very much their new work rather than just another Eno type ambient album.

We wanted to release a very immersive, mind-blowing piece of music that was long and would deeply drench you in it...Lifeforms was redefining 'classical ambient electronic experimental' — that was the phrase we used. - Cobain on "Lifeforms"|
1994 also saw the release of "ISDN", which was as close to a live album as most electronic acts get - it featured live broadcasts FSOL had made over ISDN lines to various radio stations worldwide and to The Kitchen, an avant-garde performance space in New York and several appearances on the late John Peel's celebrated BBC radio "Sessions" shows. Its tone was darker and more rhythmic than "Lifeforms". Cobain stated that with "ISDN" they had wanted to achieve something epic and grand but no matter how much technological or personal support they had (and they had everything they could have possibly wanted) they never got to truly do what they envisioned; he admits to wanting too much at this time, even though the album was successful; the 90s, for Cobain in particular, were a time of frustration and feelings of not being able to do what they wanted to even though the technology at the time did not fit their grand ideas. 1997 would see the release of a promo of one of these shows called "ISDN Show".

In 1996, they released "Dead Cities". The new material was a mix of ambient textures and dance music. This album also featured a collaboration with the composer Max Richter; it was a lot darker in tone than anything they had done previously with a theme of a city in ruins in a post-apocalyptic styled landscape filled with melancholy, moments of beauty and brutality, the latter of which was expressed with the techno track "We Have Explosive", released in 1997; it was used on the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation soundtrack, and (before the single release) in 1996 on the video game WipEout 2097, along with the track "Landmass", which they wrote especially for "2097" and WipEout. FSOL contributed to the WipEout Fusion soundtrack as well.

New millennium, new sound

After a four year hiatus, and rumours of mental illness which turned out to be nothing more than exaggeration of Cobain's mercury poisoning from fillings in his teeth, the pair returned in 2002 with "The Isness", a record heavily influenced by 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and released under their alias Amorphous Androgynous. It was preceded by "Papua New Guinea Translations", a mini album which contained a mixture of remixes of FSOL's track as well as new material from "The Isness" sessions. The album received mixed press due to the drastic change in sound which was inspired by Cobain and Dougans (separate) travels to India and immersion in spiritualism, nevertheless the majority was positive with Muzik magazine offering the album a 6/5 mark and dubbing it "...a white beam of light from heaven..." and other British publications such as The Times, The Guardian and MOJO praising the album and the bands ability to do something so completely different from what they had done before.

Three years on, they followed the album with a continuation of the Amorphous Androgynous project, "Alice in Ultraland". Rumoured to be accompanied by a film of the same title, the album took "The Isness" psychedelic experimentation and toned it down, giving the album a singular theme and sound, and replacing the more bizarre moments with funk and ambient interludes. The album was ignored by the press, but more favourable among fans than its predecessor. Unlike "The Isness", which featured almost a hundred musicians over the course of it and the various alternative versions and remix albums, "Alice in Ultraland" featured a fairly solid band lineup throughout, which extended to live shows which the band had undertaken away from the ISDN cables, from 2005 onwards. form has just become too limited. And when I say 'psychedelic', it's not a reference to 60s music but to the basic outlook of a child, which we all have. I think this is the only salvation now. Dance music taught us how to use the studio in a new way, but we have to now take that knowledge and move on with it. This stuff, electronic music, is not dead. It's a process that is ongoing. We have to take hold of the past and go forward with it..." |
- Cobain on the new Amorphous Androgynous sound.

5.1 & Digital experimentation

The FSOL moniker re-appeared in 2006 with a piece entitled "A Gigantic Globular Burst Of Anti-Static", intended as an experiment in 5.1 Surround Sound and created for an exhibition at the Kinetica art museum entitled, appropriately, "Life Forms". The piece contained reworked material from their archives and newer, more abstract ambient music. The piece was coupled with a video called Stereo Sucks, marking the band's theories on the limitations of stereo music, released on a DVD packaged with Future Music Magazine Issue 182 in December 2006 and on FSOL's own download site in March 2007.

They have also been, literally, creating their own sounds when they began constructing electronic instruments, the result of which can be heard on the 2007 release "Hand-Made Devices". At their website "Glitch TV" (where the moto is: "[A] sudden interruption in sanity, continuity or programe function.") they sell and explain their devices such as the "Electronic Devices Digital Interface" glitch equipment.

FSOLdigital and the future

In 2007, the band uploaded several archive tracks online, for the first time revealing much of their unreleased work and unveiling some of the mystery behind the band. The old FSOL material, including the previously unreleased album Environments, along with a selection of newer experiments, the 5.1 experiments and a promise of unreleased Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic material, was uploaded for sale on their online shop, As of July 2008 the CD releases of the "Archives" series have sold over 15,000 units.

The FSOLdigital platform has performed very well - we are delighted that people still dig us - we dig you all too.|
- Brian Dougans on the positive reaction to the site and "Archives" sales.

On the 2nd of April 2007 Garry Cobain posted a video onto his Youtube account of him arguing with a lady at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, London about God entitled "the GOD WARS - An Argument I Had At Speaker's Corner". It is edited in a humorous way by him with the intro title "COMIC BELIEF presents..." and has a brief spiritual guru like "musical interlude".

In early March 2008, the band released a new online album as Amorphous Androgynous entitled "The Peppermint Tree and Seeds of Superconsciousness", which they claim is "A collection of psychedelic relics from The Amorphous Androgynous, 1967-2007". The release retains the sound of their last two psychedelic albums, while expanding on the element of funk first introduced on 2005's "Alice in Ultraland". Following this came "The Woodlands of Old", recorded under the alias of their imaginary engineer Yage. Unlike the techno work recorded as Yage in 1992, this new record was darker, more trip-hop and world music inspired and featured ex-Propellerheads member Will White.

In a continuation of the band's newer, more candid side, they revealed future plans to fans via email and MySpace, with 2008 promising archives from The Amorphous Androgynous, more solo experiments from Brian and further Environments albums, covering past and present material. An entirely new FSOL album is in the works, but no actual details have been revealed to date. Furthermore, following on from the band's 1997 DJ set of the same name, two "Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind" mix CDs are being worked on, the first as an Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic mix, the second back as FSOL.

On 16th June 2008, online radio station Proton Radio showcased the first in a series of new broadcasts by the band, called "The Electric Brainstorm". A cover was supplied to fans via the Welcome To The Galaxial Pharmaceutical fansite, and the set included a number of unreleased archive tracks alongside some pieces from the forthcoming third volume in the "Zeebox" series. The second Electric Brainstorm release has been postponed briefly due to licensing matters, but promises to be a three hour set showcasing new FSOL material, as opposed to archives.

In August 2008, the band put out Environments II online, showcasing an unseen side of the band, largely pure ambient and orchestral in style and haunting in mood, and considerably different over its fourteen icy sounding tracks to the original Environments record. On the same day, a fifth Archive release was made available, leaving announced but unreleased tracks suggesting a possible sixth in the series.

In a possible continuation of the orchestral theme FSOL are apparently working on a collaboration Oscar winning short film director Hugh Welchman called "Sh". They will produce a "musical remix of the film"


The duo have a very independent frame of mind, which comes across in their music and the many styles that they pursue. This has been even more true since the turn of the millennium, with their more psychedelic Amorphous Androgynous albums being released on more independent labels; "The Isness" on Artful Records and "Alice In Ultraland" on the progressive Harvest Records, which is an arm of EMI.
They also have their own label called Electronic Brain Violence on which a few artists such as Oil and Simon Wells (Headstone Lane), both off-beat electronic artsists, have released EPs and singles. Simon Wells also contributed to "Dead Cities" on the track "Dead Cities Reprise"

Despite this Virgin records still controls FSOL's back catalog and was going to release the "Teachnings from the Electronic Brain" compilation without them but the duo instisted on taking control of the projects production. Cobain says that, even with Virgin, the reason they were able to do their own thing and create the music they wanted in the 90's was because they already had some major hits under their belts such as "Papua New Guinea" and "Stakker Humanoid" before joining the label.

"Why is it, everybody, from the fucking fish and chip shop to a magazine ends up selling itself, getting the millions and retiring. Why don't people keep going with it, why can't they change it so that it keeps being important to them. Why didn't Anita Roddick keep going with Body Shop, why did it get so alien to her that she had to sell it, why? Surely she's making so many millions she can get the right people that she loves to keep going with the ethos; there's something dangerous there." - Gary Cobain on people "selling out".|

FSOL's mentality has always been about making a journey of an album rather than focusing on trying to have hit singles, according to Cobain, and the fact that they had a good deal of top 40 singles (and albums) in the 90s was because they, again, had enough fans and had built up enough of a reputation to achieve these hits whilst still concentrating on the album rather than any potential singles during their time at Virgin.

They have been signed to Passion Records sub-label Jumpin' & Pumpin' since they started out.


  • Aircut
  • Amorphous Androgynous
  • Art Science Technology
  • Candese
  • Deep Field
  • Dope Module
  • EMS:Piano
  • Heads Of Agreement
  • Homeboy
  • Humanoid
  • Indo Tribe
  • Intelligent Communication
  • Mental Cube
  • Metropolis
  • Part-Sub-Merged
  • Polemical
  • Q
  • Semtex
  • Semi Real
  • Six Oscillators In Remittance
  • Smart Systems
  • T.Rec
  • The Far-out Son Of Lung
  • The Orgone Accumulator
  • Unit 2449
  • Yage
  • Yunie
  • Zeebox


As The Future Sound of London unless indicated.



Specials & promos

Remix work

They have also garnered a reputation as remixers, transforming the work of a variety of different artists, including:

The results are often novel and complex, and in some instances the original track is barely recognisable.

Chart History

Singles Charts

Year Single Chart Position
1988 "Stakker Humanoid" UK Singles Chart #17
1989 "Slam" UK Singles Chart #54
1992 "Papua New Guinea" UK Singles Chart #22
1992 "Stakker Humanoid '92" UK Singles Chart #40
1993 "Cascade" UK Singles Chart #27
1994 "Expander" UK Singles Chart #72
1994 "Lifeforms (feat. Elizabeth Fraser)" UK Singles Chart #14
1995 "The Far-Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" UK Singles Chart #22
1996 "My Kingdom" UK Singles Chart #13
1997 "We Have Explosive" UK Singles Chart #12
2001 "Stakker Humanoid 2001" UK Singles Chart #65
2001 "Papua New Guinea 2001" UK Singles Chart #28

Album Charts

Year Album Chart Position
1991 "Accelerator" UK Album Charts #75
1994 "Lifeforms" UK Album Charts #6
1994 "ISDN" UK Album Charts #44
1996 "Dead Cities" UK Album Charts #26
2002 "The Isness" UK Album Charts #68

See also


External links

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