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A beginner's guide to The Amorphous Androgynous

Amorphous Androgynous
(Image credit: Amorphous Androgynous)

“I wanted to write spiritual, cosmic rock’n’roll operas,”  explains Gary Cobain, one half of The Amorphous Androgynous, of why he needed the Amorphous Androgynous project moniker, despite it being the same line-up as his ambient dance outfit Future Sound Of London.

The release late last year of We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal, the latest in The Amorphous Androgynous canon of work that see's the band working with an invigorated Peter Hammill, Paul Weller, former Ian Gillan Band guitarist Ray Fenwick, Cobalt Chapel/Regal Worm's Jarrod Gosling and more, thrusts the band firmly back in the prog spotlight.

Yet the duo's refusal to play the standard PR game means they tend to fly under the radar of many prog fabs, while their previous life as ambient dance act The Future Sound Of London might put off the less open-minded, despite the fact they worked with the likes of Robert Fripp, Klaus Shulze and Ozric Tentacles.

Here we provide a bluffer's guide to the music that has brought The Amorphous Androgynous to where they are today. Enjoy...

Prog

Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms (Virgin, 1994)

Don’t be fooled by the burbling electronica: ambient escapism this was not. “We were more punk or rock’n’roll than these bands with the right haircut but nothing to say,” declared Cobain. “Vibrant dynamic upstarts wanting a sonic revolution!”

Future Sound Of London - Dead Cities (Virgin, 1996)

As one reviewer wrote of this effects-laden stream-of-consciousness: “Here you are as likely to run into the spectral beauty of an ersatz choir as you are the sound of exploding TVs.” The first half of Dead Cities was consumed by darkness and unease, while the second part suggested a flicker of light at the end of a very long tunnel. 

The Amorphous Androgynous - The Isness (Cleopatra, 2002)

Released under the alias The Amorphous Androgynous (except in the US, where it was still FSOL for commercial reasons), this featured a stellar cast including Herbie Flowers, Kate St John and Gary Lucas of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band.

The Amorphous Androgynous - Alice In Ultraland (Harvest/EMI, 2005)

Aptly enough, this AA release was issued on Harvest, and had some of that progressive pioneer label’s feel in its heady swirl of funkadelic rock, jazz and folk-infused psych.

The Amorphous Androgynous - A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind: Volume 1 (Harvest/EMI, 2005)

This was a glorified DJ set, AA mixing and matching, cutting and splicing, from rock, prog, psych and movie scores, from Hawkwind to David Axelrod. Time Out magazine described it as “quite simply the best compilation ever”.

The Amorphous Androgynous - The Cartel Vol. 1 (FSOLdigital, 2013)

A faux soundtrack album and an homage to AA’s favourite movie composers, including Lalo Schifrin, Quincy Jones, Curtis Mayfield, John Barry and Ennio Morricone. All original material, with a little help from Noel Gallagher on bass and guitar and Raven Bush (of Syd Arthur) on violin, plus AA taking care of Hammond, drums, violin, harp, flute, guitar, bass, brass and vibraphone.

The Amorphous Androgynous & Peter Hammill - We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal (Jumpin & Pumpin, 2020)

A teaser for the new AA outing with Peter Hammill in particularly fine form, with some stellar backing from the likes of Paul Weller (you'll be surprised), Jarrod Gosling, Ray Fenwick and more.