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Something thought lost forever re-enters your life. How do you respond? How do you even begin to negotiate the vortex of mixed emotions whipped up by such a reappearance? The world shifts side-ways. Logic is confounded. The uncanny takes a hold. West Country feedback outfit Flying Saucer Attack are a case in point. In recent years it’s become clear that the Bristol based group were prescient to a considerable degree. The amplified pastoralism of the group and its various off-shoots might have seemed out of step with the times during its initial emergence at the height of Britpop, but the rural has since emerged as a rich source of inspiration for numerous artists in the fields of experimental rock and electronic music. Artists such as Alexander Tucker, Richard Youngs and Boards Of Canada have taken similar pathways through the fields. Labels have emerged that owe their folk-via-avant-garde-via-punk DIY aesthetic to that of Dave Pearce and his comrades. Recently filmmaker Peter Strickland—whose 2012 film Berberian Sound Studio was memorably scored by Broadcast—included “Three Seas” on the soundtrack to his acclaimed BDSM themed love story The Duke Of Burgundy. Since FSA’s last official album (Mirror, 2000) all that has been heard of the group’s guitarist and mainstay Dave Pearce is his collaboration with US artist Jessica Bailiff as Clear Horizon, whose self-titled album was released by Kranky in 2003.
For over a decade, Pearce has been hovering just outside the pantheon of revered psychedelic absentees that includes Syd Barrett, Skip Spence and, until recently at least, Bill Fay. Having done much to establish an influential Bristolian microscene of noise-damaged out rock that also included Third Eye Foundation, AMP, Crescent and Movietone (all of whom have shared personnel with FSA) he disappeared into the same verdant landscape that informed the “rural psychedelia” of Flying Saucer Attack (1993) and Further (1995).The world shifts sideways. Logic is confounded. The uncanny takes a hold. Enter Instrumentals 2015. Comprised of 15 fresh Pearce solo performances recorded in characteristically lo-fi manner on tape and CD-R, Instrumentals 2015 is an album that will appeal both to FSA diehards—those who proudly clutch their copies of 1996 album In Search Of Spaces on New Zealand noise doyen Bruce Russell’s Corpus Hermeticum label—and those wholly unfamiliar with the outfit’s recorded output. The 15 tracks present an impressionistic narrative which transports the listener through the excoriating dronescapes and rueful introspection of the album’s early pieces to the more redemptive cadences of its closing half. Given its sense of momentum, maintained through Pearce’s thoughtful sequencing, this is an album that should be experienced in its entirety, the better to appreciate its deliberate emotional arc.
The songs gathered on Instrumentals 2015 inform and enrich each other, themes manifesting in one form to reappear, modified, elsewhere, as though impacted and altered by experience. FSA’s music has always been very much alive and organic, and this is most definitely true here and now. This is music that ebbs and flows with the impermanence of mood itself, graspable on first listen yet revealing of additional overtones on each successive visit. Even at its most distressed and distorted, Pearce’s playing is intuitive and expressive, communicative even, translating inner and outer landscapes simultaneously until the two are indivisible, woven into a single language. In this respect he should be considered a pioneer of the kind of elemental atmospherics recently purveyed by the likes of Richard Skelton and Kemper Norton. Yet these pieces are distinctive and characteristic of their author, exhibiting the same windblown drift and dreamlike melancholy that billowed through FSA’s work from 1992–2000, filtered through a new maturity gained during Pearce’s twelve-year absence. The next phase of Flying Saucer Attack has begun.