Lifeforms (EP)

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Lifeforms, sometimes referred to as Lifeforms Paths, is an EP by Brian Dougans, Gaz Cobain and Elizabeth Fraser, as FSOL & Elizabeth Fraser. It was released as the second promotional single from the album Lifeforms.

Info[edit]

The Lifeforms EP was originally planned for release in early 1994, preceding the album of the same name. Brian and Gaz had spent almost a year in negotiations with Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins (including Gaz having "long giggly phone calls" with her); the recording itself didn't go without incident: the engineer notoriously mistook glitches from a dodgy DAT machine at Earthbeat as one of Brian and Gaz's experiments. After a further month spent putting the EP together, negotiations between Phonogram and Virgin came to a standstill over rights, in what Gaz referred to as "the big boys playing marbles with the creatives." The record was eventually released at the start of August, and outsold all of the group's previous singles, charting at number 14 in the UK singles chart. The radio edit was the first ever digital download release, released by Astralwerks to the US website SonicNet on 22nd June 1994. The band received a belated Guinness World Record certificate for this in 2017.

Musically, the EP takes the multi-part suite approach of 'Cascade' and pushes it to the extreme: with seven unique parts, here labelled 'Paths', and a run-time of 38 minutes, the record feels like an album in its own right. Rather than leading proceedings, the album version of 'Lifeforms' appears as 'Path 3'; an alternate mix of 'Life Form Ends' turns up as 'Path 5'. The remainder of the EP is new material, with a few sounds and samples from the album thrown in for good measure. All of the new tracks continue to forge a path away from dance and traditional electronic music, with an increased focus on acoustic percussion, ethnic sounds (most notably on the sitar-laden 'Path 2'), and Liz Fraser's otherworldly vocals cut up and layered. The overall mood is a little darker than the Lifeforms LP, particularly on the opening and closing paths. In an incredibly unconventional move, the radio and video version of the track is based on 'Path 4', rather than the album version. The 7" picture disc features this edit, as well as a less rhythmic version; a further alternate take of the radio edit appears on the promo CD version. A promo cassette exists with a confusing tracklist.

Sheuneen Ta appears once again on the cover, with what looks like the crumbling remains of the jellyfish originally seen on the album's gatefold image. The dead creature, brown colour-scheme and the upper membrane seen in the image reflect the EP's darker mood. A music video was produced to promote the track, featuring footage from the full length Lifeforms video.

Years after the release of the EP, Gaz voiced regret at how Liz Fraser's voice had been used, citing the limitations of the technology at the time. He told Sveriges Radio in 2014: "She gave us like two hours of vocals and we couldn't handle them, because although we had seven samplers, it was all about snippets. [...] How do you do it in like 91-92, it's very difficult. So basically we didn't feel we got that track right." Intending to release an improved version, he explained "for the 20 year anniversary we are, we've got a Lifeforms with Liz Fraser that's amazing, I mean we've worked on it for like four/five years because I love Liz Fraser, and for me I've always carried the kind of sadness of never really fulfilling the potential of us with Liz Fraser." For unexplained reasons, the reissue never went ahead, and the newly recorded version remains unreleased.

Video[edit]

Issues[edit]

  • 1994 Virgin (VSCDT 1484, 7243 8 92373 2 0 / VST 1484, 7243 8 92377 6 4 / VSP 1484, 7243 8 92377 0 2 / VSC 1484, 7243 8 92377 4 0 / VSCDJ 1484 / VSCDXJ 1484)
  • 1994 Astralwerks (ASW 6114-2 / ASW 6114-6)

European CD, 12", cassette in picture sleeves, 7" picture disc in clear sleeve with sticker. Promo CD in picture sleeve, promo cassette in label sleeve. US 12" and CD editions. Standard cassette plays the same both sides.

Track listing[edit]

VSCDT 1484 / ASW 6114-2 (CD) / VST 1484 / ASW 6114-6 (12") / VSC 1484 (Cass)[edit]

  1.  "Lifeforms Path 1" – 4:42
  2.  "Lifeforms Path 2" – 6:49
  3.  "Lifeforms Path 3" – 5:24
  4.  "Lifeforms Path 4" – 9:03
  5.  "Lifeforms Path 5" – 6:02
  6.  "Lifeforms Path 6" – 2:48
  7.  "Lifeforms Path 7" – 4:02

VSP 1484 (7")[edit]

  1.  "Lifeforms (Radio Edit)" – 2:51
  2. "Lifeforms (Alternative Radio Edit)" – 2:49

VSCDXJ 1484 (CD)[edit]

  1.  "Lifeforms (Radio Edit 1)" – 2:51
  2. "Lifeforms (Radio Edit 2)" – 2:49
  3.  "Lifeforms (Radio Edit 3)" – 2:49
  4. "Lifeforms (Album Version)" – 5:15

VSCDJ 1484 (Cass)[edit]

  1. "Lifeforms (Edit)" – 2:51
  2.  "Lifeforms Path 1" – 4:42
  3.  "Lifeforms Path 2" – 6:49
  4.  "Lifeforms Path 3" – 5:24
  5.  "Lifeforms Path 4" – 9:03
  6.  "Lifeforms Path 5" – 6:02
  7.  "Lifeforms Path 6" – 2:48
  8.  "Lifeforms Path 7" – 4:02
  9.  "Lifeforms (Full)" – 4:50
  10. "Lifeforms (1P)" – 5:16

Credits[edit]

  • Written by The Future Sound of London & Elizabeth Fraser
  • Vocals by Elizabeth Fraser
  • Produced by The Future Sound of London
  • Engineered by Yage
  • Recorded at Earthbeat Studios and September Sound, London
  • Tablatronics by Talvin Singh
  • Artwork by Buggy G. Riphead

Availability[edit]

  • The physical single is out of print, but can be picked up easily from various second hand outlets.
  • Digital copies are available from the usual download and streaming outlets