Bristol’s Flying Saucer Attack have always been a somewhat mysterious and intriguing band since their humble beginnings in the early nineties, becoming one of the pioneers of space rock and truly pushing the boundaries of what it means to be ‘experimental’. Over the years, the word ‘experimental’ seems to have become more and clichéd, merely stamped upon a band who tries something new, often to negative reception. Experimentation is at the epicentre, the nucleus, the lifeblood, of everything FSA stand for. It’s the absolute foundation of their sound and it’s great to see that the new album, Instrumentals 2015, fifteen years on from the last, is just as exciting and ambitious as ever.
Instrumentals 2015, as the title suggests, compromises of 15 instrumental tracks all of which are solo performances by FSA’s core member, David Pearce. No vocals, just an infinite cascade of sound and a plethora of bizarre and wonderful ideas. It’s a highly ambitious record, one that spans the whole of the FSA catalogue, bringing together a host of genres from shoegaze to psych. It’s complex and endearing in every single sense.
The single most important factor to bear in mind with this album is to listen to it one sitting. In its complete entirety, Instrumentals 2015 is a beautiful yet haunting journey, one that takes you through the deepest depths of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, baron yet stunning in the strangest way possible. Each song transports the listener through these twisted worlds, full of hollow soundscapes and dense layers, so dense that, in fact, as singular pieces of music, you don’t get that same feeling of satisfaction and completeness. On their own, these tracks are completely lost. It’s like reading a chapter of a book at random. This is a story after all, and in order to appreciate the beauty and sheer emotion of this story, you have to witness it in full.
Not many artists can tell such a wonderfully harrowing story in such a minimalistic low-fi fashion, but Pearce sure knows how to create some haunting and stunning effects. ‘Instrumental 2’ and ‘Instrumental 3’ set the expansive and glorious scene of the album, full of shimmering, chiming guitars and hypnotic effects that leave you lost in your own thoughts. There’s something amazingly peaceful and tranquil about this album, even during the loud shrill squeals of ‘Instrumental 6’ and piercing psych flurries of ‘Instrumental 9’. Nestled between these layers of tranquillity though is something quite frightening and harrowing. Perhaps because of the slow ambling beat or just the sheer simplicity of sounds, there’s always that haunting presence that latches on, particularly in the latter stages of the album. The final two tracks of the album are perhaps the most uncanny and thought-provoking, accompanied by a mirage of fragmented guitars and a slow soothing beat. It’s a beautiful and magnificent end to the album, leaving the listener at the top of its highest peak, looking down on the stunning expanse of sound left below.
For a lot of people, Instrumentals 2015 might be a difficult listen, and it’s understandable to think why. But once you break free of this instant reaction, there’s a complex and rewarding album on the other side, just waiting for you to get lost within. Beautiful, haunting and vast, Instrumentals 2015 marks a triumphant return for Flying Saucer Attack and David Pearce’s vivid imagination.