FM – Headroom: Direct To Disc

FM were/are a trio from Toronto, I think they still tour but haven’t released any new music in ages. This is their second album. They are only on PA as ‘prog related’ but their first two albums are 100% prog IMO. The debut album Black Noise was one of the first to be recorded digitally. It only had a limited release originally, so Headroom was actually more widely available than the debut for awhile. However, this one never got a CD release. It was mixed live with no overdubs and recorded, as the title says, direct to disc. Original violinist/mandolinist Nash The Slash left after the debut to start a fairly successful solo career. One of the reasons he left was because he didn’t like working with a drummer; he preferred the early days of FM when it was him, bassist/keyboardist Cameron Hawkins and a drum machine.

Nash’s replacement here is Ben Mink (who like Nash also plays electric mandolin). He has worked with some other Canadian musicians such as Rush and k.d. lang. Despite the one member change this album sounds like the same group who made Black Noise. Although this is actually more ‘proggy’ and fusion-y. Only two side-long tracks are included. This is mostly instrumental music but there is a little bit of vocals. Drummer Martin Deller does some of the synth duties. In fact, on the second track he uses an alpha wave brain monitor plugged into a synthesizer so you can hear his brainwaves. No, seriously.

“Headroom” starts the album off as some kind of countrified fusion. Later the drums die out with just a little bit of percussion and the violin does a low-key solo. Some great synth sounds follow before the full trio comes back and there is some singing. It gets more experimental sounding towards the end before finishing on a blues-rock jam. “Border Crossing” begins as great maple-syrup covered fusion. Love the bass and mandolin tones here. It really sounds like a guitar but as far as I know they didn’t use one. The synths sound great as well. Gets atmospheric and ambient sounding for awhile. Then it gets trippy and spacey.

A sequencer repeats a hypnotic pattern along with some percussion as some singing begins, one or two syllables at a time. While this is going on the drumkit comes back. A drum solo for awhile. Later a laid-back groove with some emotional violin soloing. Gets more jazzy as it goes along. Other than tracking down one of the original vinyl copies, I don’t think you would have much luck finding this album. I’m not sure if it’s available as a paid download anywhere. A real shame because the music here is great. After Headroom FM start to become way more commercial sounding. This is worth hearing if you get a chance.

Tracklist:

1. Headroom:
a) Tyra
b) Reflections One
c) Reflections Two
d) Real Time
e) Scarberia
2. Border Crossing:
a) 1st Movement
b) 2nd Movement
c) 3rd Movement
d) 4th Movement
e) 5th Movement

Line-up:

* Martin Deller – drums, percussion
* Cameron Hawkins – bass, synthesizers
* Ben Mink – electric violin, electric mandolin

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