Recommended: Future Beat Alliance – Collected Works 1996-2017

Future Beat Alliance is the nom de plume of British producer Matthew Puffett. Having been active for more than two decades, last year saw the release of his thrilling retrospective reaching back as far as 1996. Influenced by acts such as Black Dog Productions, Balil, his sound is a melting pot of ideas, with intricate production reliably dancing under absorbing melodies and big, bright synth work. He released three albums (in 1997, 2001 and 2009), and then steadily put out singles on a variety of labels between 1996 and 2013 including Ferox, Delsin, Rush Hour, Tresor and his own FBA Recordings.

Having worked with James Lavelle on the Surrender All label in the mid-to-late ’00s (“James is one of my oldest friends from my hometown in Oxford where I grew up so we’ve always been in contact,”) he remixed several UNKLE tracks, including “Inside” and “Heavy Drug”. He subsequently joined the band for their album The Road and though this meant FBA took a back seat at the time, interest never waned in his work. He explained to us over email, “I was getting quite a lot of social media interest and some private messages from various labels and distribution companies asking me if I would like to re-release my early FBA material, which I made in the ’90s. I got quite excited with all the interest which then led me to re-release Mode 2 and “Physical Systems”, which I found on an old DAT tape, when hunting through the old DAT box, labelled unreleased 97.”

Following on from those releases came a larger retrospective, FBA21: Collected Works 1996-2017. This compilation features music from across his career, structured thematically and ultimately showing a singular voice that transcends time and style. The first track on the release comes from 1997, followed by something brand new. The two fit together seamlessly, a clear vision travelling across decades. “Intruder” clatters with raucous kicks and otherworldly squelches, while gentle synths flutter in the background. “Chemical Cloud” is led by a chilling, faintly demonic melody that moves in a myriad of directions, hovering back and forth in an orchestral fashion while sci-fi sound design gives a sense of great expanse. The key themes on the record are big melodies, expansive synths and beefy bass lines, all of which appear to great effect on tracks like “Fake Love”, “Machines Can Help” and the riotous “Cross Dissolve”. Then we have the yearning guitar-like wails of “Almost Human”, and some utterly glorious arpeggios and syncopated themes on “Something to Hold”. Something of a detour, “Dark Passenger” trades in bolshy techno, while “Eon Link 500” and “Head Ways” dance to a more fragmented beat, the latter almost touching on jazzy tropes for its jerkiness.

“Without Words”, the final track on the physical edition, is a beautifully rendered piece of work that is part lush, intricate jam, part half-time techno slammer minus the beats. It’s a steady stomp of a journey packed into one single track, too riven with complexities to be termed “ambient”. For digital listeners, the release ends with “Beginner”, an apt title for a track from the archives. Unreleased, it stems from 1996 and is a worthy inclusion to this collection. Stylistically similar to the majority of tracks here, its wavering melodies and seemingly reversed beds come together for a perfect swansong with Future Beat Alliance ending, ironically, right at the start.

Future Beat Alliance FBA21: Collected Works 1996-2017 is out now on FBA recordings.

Photo: Markus Henttonen 

Aidan Hanratty

Dublin ...