Hailing from Toronto, Canada, keyboardist and bassist Cameron Hawkins and Nash the Slash (Jeff Plewman) formed FM in 1976 as an electronic duo. The band eschewed electric guitar, instead opting for—quite uniquely—Nash's electric violin and mandolin. Martin Deller joined on drums, and the band then recorded their debut album Black Noise in 1977. The opening fury of "Phasors on Stun," "One O'clock Tomorrow" steadily swings and rides a melodic verse, while the following "Hours" features Nash on violin. It's a blistering instrumental that glides effortlessly into "Journey." "Dialing for Dharma" mounts a nice sequence, with Nash and Hawkins trading solos; though "Slaughter in Robot Village" queues up a big bass line for a much heavier approach. "Aldebaran" showcases Nash's mandolin work, with Hawkins offering a complementary vocal. Clocking in at nearly ten minutes, the title track, "Black Noise," closes the album, and again features Nash on violin. It's a striking record for the time, unleashing a fresh take on progressive rock through inventive instrumentation and synthesizers. However, the band's Canadian label CBC released it by mail order only; and it wasn't until Spring 1978, when US-based Passport Records picked up the release, that the album took off (it eventually earned a gold record award in Canada). But by that time, Nash had left the band and been replaced by Ben Mink; and a limited edition "real time" album, Direct To Disk, had already been released by Canadian label Labyrinth Records. FM went on their first US tour in that same year and recorded their second studio album, Surveillance, for Passport. Released in 1979, it was eventually picked up by Capitol Records. A third album, City Of Fear—produced by Larry Fast of Synergy—followed in 1980, but the combination of record label woes and personnel changes put the band's future in limbo. [US release date]
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Taken from The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, here is an Album of the Week to enjoy and discuss.
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