FM Skyline


Liam Murphy

June 23, 2022

Tracks in this feature

Tracks in this release

Vibrant and artistic in its sound and presentation, this release presents touching moments set in an otherworldly plain

Prelude fades into focus with sweet, floating synth chords blooming with the help of a gentle breeze. A minimalist landscape opens up before the listener; night-time in a quaint but enigmatic location. There is an inoffensive coarseness as the notes swirl and we feel detached from any meaningful sense of civilisation, watching grains of sand swarm in the aether just above our head. This introduction perfectly sets the scene for FM Skyline’s masterpiece; a utopia bathed in gentle twilight. 

There is a prompter call to action as we enter into the aptly named Overture. Phased ‘80s drums set out a playful rhythm, joined by a bassline further accentuating a dance-y but spacious atmosphere. Synths glide atop the rhythm, providing a cushion for a myriad of flutes to playfully dip and soar as we find ourselves careering through this new landscape at a heady speed. Though the drive of the track is more apparent in relation to Illuminations opener, there is the same sort of aura nestled in both. A penchant for new age explorative melodies and a desire to harness a triumphant and idyllic spirit. 

A feelgood melody bounces carefree in the middle distance before clambering closer, submerging us in a nostalgic warmth. More dynamic basswork ensures Veranda shares the same forward momentum as Overture before it, with an added sense of emotion emanating from twinkling keys. It is hard to label or classify the sound FM Skyline perfects on the track, a noticeably upbeat structure, but with unmistakable flashes of heartfelt melancholy. It brims with vitality, a film of nostalgia sparkling proudly from its surface.

A cryptic motif is set out by a synth, wavering like an azure mirage. A response comes momentarily, dainty keys soothing the angst of the melody before it. An excitable bassline once again provides a floaty quality to the journey through FM Skyline’s world. Angelic choirs and MIDI leads ameliorate from either side of us. 

Shadow and its brief runtime are further indebted to placing the listener into this landscape, with whistling wind and uncanny choral voices that float slowly upwards, from which jangling dissonance falls.Back to a solid electronic and rhythmic basis as Spectre clears the air with plumes of worried synth and a twinkling lead melody. There is a bittersweet ebullience to the track, the chattering hi hat and its progressive energy stopped every so often by interrupting toms. The melodic palette used casts a teary-eyed glaze over the track. The artist asserted an intent to evoke “a classical, theatrical atmosphere”, and here we find ourselves pondering life and loss with a sonic backdrop so elegant it could be the set for a dramatic performance.

The deep and almost plosive tones that commence Intermezzo bring the listener out of an emotional slump. Steady drums march once again, buffeting resonant notes into the middle distance. The clamour grows, and by the time low-slung flute notes are pushing from the lower-middle frequencies, there is a chugging momentum to the track that climaxes with crystalline keys and an expressive portamento lead.

Veil provides us with perhaps the most memorable track from Illuminations. Wavering keys flutter through toward the listener like the persistent flicker of a cold, blue hologram. Buoyant bass keeps things upbeat, the drooping tones of the main keys threatening to drag everything into a downbeat morose. FM Skyline injects a searing energy into proceedings with a screeching guitar synth, careering into view. Its bended notes and sharp cadences reach out from the purpling vista, quickly receding as the glittery haze takes over.

A rare opportunity to stand still within the landscape is offered on Simulacrum. Pads buffet from each side, leaning into a tuneless dissonance. A cool bass tone juts forward, an unshaken object in the slightly dislocated backdrop. Sparkling keys and disembodied voices enter the fray, with no real momentum presented. It is a chance for the listener to stand and savour the experience, shrouded digital clouds blowing them one way and then the other. The artist offers everything needed to come to terms with the fragile and essentially intangible nature of our surroundings, cushioning us with sound.  

Classique’s fragile synth motif is another reminder of the more touching aspects of the album as a whole. Though FM Skyline’s intention to build a world is clear, the sound drifts towards a clear sense of sadness. The artist points towards the paralysing effects of the pandemic and turbulent relationships as sources of inspiration for the album. Classique’s dynamic flute and glimmering arpeggiations certainly feel as though they are fuelled by more
than just a visual art fascination. The same tools used to paint these incredible, sleek landscapes in the listener’s mind drift off into heartfelt laments and actively search for a deeper, more human meaning.

That same sharp guitar synth from Veil bursts onto the scene once again. The more calculated rhythm of Luminaire allowing it to truly give into a sultry rock energy as notes cry out in dramatic bursts.

Orb brings us closer towards the end of our journey. Somnambulist shade begins to fall all across the vista, the central chords melting from their intended tune as if they are drifting off to sleep. Even the usually energetic lead synth seems to be a little more effervescent than having any real form. The last remnants of emotion and passion careering around the darkening realm before they evaporate into nothingness. Towards the end the pad falters considerably, its usually flawless surface rupturing a little as the digital brush erases it from the scene. 

An innocent, diminutive tune plays out, shared between a droning bass and toy piano chords. Rêve indicates no real awareness of the struggles of the tracks before. It seems the world has found its way back to an undisturbed ambience. But still, in the resonance of the bass tone, and in the sounds slowly creeping from the backdrop there is something restless dormant in this almost perfect world. 

Illumination means light, a radiance that inspires understanding. But with light comes darkness, just as clarity can cause dissolution. Illuminations is, on the one hand, an ode to early digital art. A celebration of the vibrancy the movement adopted following the technological revolution of the ‘80s. But it is also a touching exploration of longing and detachment. Emotion swarms the beautifully crafted world. The two vie for supremacy at points, and work together at others. The result is a truly unforgettable depiction of a human’s journey through a malleable and ultimately endless digital space.