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ISDN is the fourth album by Brian Dougans and Gaz Cobain, and the third under the name The Future Sound of London. It features tracks recorded during live ISDN performances.


Much in line with their Jumpin' & Pumpin' years, Brian and Gaz continued working on a steady stream of music throughout 1993 and 1994 after Lifeforms was completed, but major label schedules did not allow for everything to be released. Thus the 'Eggshell' single and Amorphous Androgynous album Environments were pushed aside to let through the next FSOL album, a collection of tracks performed on the band's various live performances via ISDN cables throughout 1994. The album was promoted by two limited edition vinyl EPs, Smokin' Japanese Babe and Promo 500, both of which heralded a dramatically different sound from that found only a few months earlier on Lifeforms. The album expanded this sound further.

ISDN is a considerably darker album than anything the group had put out as FSOL before, with far less in the way of spacious ambient sound, and more focus on disorienting, surreal samples and heavy breakbeats. Where Lifeforms's soundscapes owed at least something to the real world, with their liberal use of familiar sounding field recordings, the spaces explored on ISDN are vastly more alien and unfamiliar. Several tracks on the album were recorded around the same time as Lifeforms, appearing on 1993 and early 1993 mixes and transmissions, and these - including 'Dirty Shadows', 'Tired' and 'A Study of Six Guitars' - along with tracks like 'You're Creeping Me Out', 'Appendage' and 'It's My Mind That Works' are generally more on the ambient / electronic end of things, albeit with a more claustrophobic sound in places. Later tracks such as 'Slider', 'The Far-out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman', 'Amoeba' and 'Snake Hips' find the group working with a very different sound, with hints of trip-hop, acid jazz and breakbeat found in their mix of breaks, jazz trumpet and funk guitar. In 1994 Gaz mentioned in interviews that they were "getting back into beats again," albeit a "kind of beat not based on dancing". This change in focus is evident throughout most of ISDN, in which rhythm is given the centre-stage more than on anything FSOL had released since they left Jumpin' & Pumpin'. As ever, tracks are tied together by environments. There are occasional references to early releases, notably sounds from 'Little Brother' in 'Tired', a remake of 'Cascade (Part 5)' in the form of 'An End of Sorts', and the Mental Cube track 'Chile of the Bass Generation' forming the backbone of the strange 'Hot Knives', the closest FSOL came to a traditional lyrical 'song'. Even many of the track titles are different in style to the more abstract imagery used in the past: 'Just a Fuckin Idiot', 'Smokin Japanese Babe', 'You're Creeping Me out' and 'Snake Hips' are a lot more human-centric, with a touch of sleaze, whilst 'Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead' and 'It's My Mind That Works' take their names from lines in the film Repo Man (more dialogue from which appears in the latter of those tracks). 'Are They Fightin Us' gets its title from a Bill Hicks routine used in their ISDN transmissions.

The initial plan was for the album to be released in an edition of 100,000 copies - a homage to The Beatles' White Album, along with that plain embossed cover - but the industry wasn't quite as compliant as the band hoped. In the end, 30,000 copies were released (10,000 for the UK, 10,000 for the US and 10,000 for the rest of the world) at the end of 1994. A few months later it was deemed necessary to give the album a wider release, and to keep the original pressing special, two tracks were removed (three on the CD for space reasons) and three more added. The staggered release did the album's chart hopes no good, but the white-covered 1995 reissue still managed to reach a respectable 44 in the UK albums chart. The initial black LP was released on a single 12" disc, pushing the limits of the format's storage capability, and is thus lower in sound quality than other issues. The index points differ slightly over the two CD editions.

The plain black and white covers of the two editions are uncharacteristic given the band's fondness for exotic collages and CG imagery, but the inner sleeve of the first pressing and 16 page booklet of the white CD edition are filled with typically psychedelic imagery, including Sheuneen Ta, the Electronic Brain 'spike' model, heavily distorted pictures of Brian and Gaz, and the first appearance of Dollis Hill Thai restauranteur Vit. Also included in the artwork are the first of what would become a FSOL trademark: Gaz's first person stories (later described as "Reality as foretold by a panoply of characters within the FSOL metaverse.") The first story acts as a kind of manifesto for the ISDN live experience ("We could reach people at their strongest and most vulnerable - in the home") while the second, exclusive to the white edition of the album, tells of the realities of broadcasting around the world ("It was 3 in the morning, we were knackered, the last shops had closed hours ago and there was nothing to do but watch Pin's collection of old Top of the Pops footage"), whilst adding some confusion to proceedings by having Yage, the band's imaginary engineer, leaving the studio in a huff. The album is probably the band's most sample-heavy release, and those cut from John Williams and 23 Skidoo are mentioned in the sleeve. Most of the tracks in the credits are given broadcast dates, but in typical FSOL style, many of these don't match up to the versions of these shows that appear in The Pod Room. The EBv/Earthbeat logo appears on the back of the sleeve. No artwork credits are given, but it is safe to assume that Buggy and the band created the imagery on show.


  • 1994: Virgin (CDV 2755, 7243 8 40066 2 4 / V 2755, 7243 8 40066 1 7)
  • 1995: Astralwerks (ASW 6144)

CD and LP in velcro-sealed card sleeve. US CD a month later than UK release.

  • 1995 Virgin (CDVX 2755, 7243 8 40387 2 4 / VX2755, 7243 8 40387 1 7 / TCVX 2755, 7243 8 40387 4 8 / TCVX 2755A/B / ASW 6144-2 / ASW 6144-4 / V4 7 2438 40387 4 8)

CD, 2LP, cassette and cassette promo editions, UK, US and Canada.

Track listing[edit]

CDV 2755 / ASW 6144 (CD) / V 2755 (LP)[edit]

  1. "Just a Fuckin Idiot" – 5:40
  2.  "The Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" – 4:14
  3.  "Appendage" – 2:33
  4.  "Slider" – 7:20
  5.  "Smokin Japanese Babe" – 5:07
  6.  "You're Creeping Me Out" – 6:31
  7.  "Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead" – 3:45
  8.  "It's My Mind That Works" – 3:21
  9. "Dirty Shadows" – 6:12
  10. "Tired" – 6:37
  11.  "Egypt" – 4:11
  12.  "Are They Fightin Us" – 6:23
  13.  "Hot Knives" – 3:20
  14. "A Study of Six Guitars" – 4:17
  15. "An End of Sorts" – 5:26

CDVX 2755 / ASW 6144-2 (CD) / VX2755 (2LP) / TCVX 2755 / TCVX 2755A/B / V4 7 2438 40387 4 8 (Cass)[edit]

  1. "Just a Fuckin Idiot" – 5:39
  2.  "The Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" – 4:29
  3.  "Appendage" – 2:25
  4.  "Slider" – 7:22
  5.  "Smokin Japanese Babe" – 4:59
  6.  "You're Creeping Me Out" – 6:31
  7.  "Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead" – 3:45
  8.  "It's My Mind That Works" – 3:24
  9. "Dirty Shadows" – 6:15
  10. "Tired" – 6:31
  11.  "Egypt" – 4:11
  12.  "Kai" – 4:24
  13.  "Amoeba" – 5:20
  14. "A Study of Six Guitars" – 4:12
  15. "Snake Hips" – 5:51


  • All tracks written and produced by The Future Sound of London
  • Engineered by Yage for EBv
  • Recorded live at Earthbeat Studios London 1994 during various ISDN transmissions
  • 'Just a Fuckin Idiot', 'Slider', 'You're Creeping Me Out', 'It's My Mind That Works', 'Egypt' recorded live to Holland via VPRO Radio 9/9/94
  • 'The Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman': bassballs - Phillip Pinn
  • 'Appendage', 'Eyes Pop - Skin Explodes - Everybody Dead', 'Tired' recorded live to The Kitchen New York 3/11/94
  • 'Smokin Japanese Babe', 'Are They Fightin Us', 'Kai', 'Amoeba': John Williams - acoustic bassloops sourced from the album Cavatina - put through the machines
  • 'Dirty Shadows', 'An End of Sorts' recorded live to Europe via Radio 1 FM 14/5/94
  • 'A Study of Six Guitars' guitar textures sourced from Robert Fripp live with FSOL Radio 1 FM 14/5/94
  • 'Snake Hips' contains horn sample from Vegas El Bandito and additional percussion loop from Kundalini performed by 23 Skidoo under license from Ronin Records


  • Black edition has been out of print since 1994
  • Copies turn up from time to time on the second hand market
  • White edition CD is widely available from physical, digital and streaming outlets
  • White edition LP turns out regularly on the second hand market, but is not cheap