Cowboy Flying Saucer are a bit of a local legend in Walthamstow, a town in North East London whose previous musical exports include East 17 and Blazin’ Squad. However, that is where comparisons must end as there is nothing quite like CFS’s avant-garde stylings.
The band have just released their third LP, IsoMusik, a collection of songs put together during the UK lockdown periods of 2020. Like many bands, Cowboy Flying Saucer had to adapt quickly as the state of the world continued to spiral, and luckily they’ve managed to hit the ground running.
Sending audio recordings back and forth in late March 2020, the band created the track ‘A Message For The Telepaths’, which ultimately led to them persevering with this new way of making music until they had a whole album. In a Facebook post, guitarist Johnny Ven stated, “The creative process was oblique, asynchronous, cut n paste style, which was fun, and led to unexpected results which we’re super proud of … but I really do hope our next LP can be made recording all together, as a band, in a studio, like in the good old days.”
As is the nature of a record like this, no two tracks are the same. It’s also wildly different from anything that Cowboy Flying Saucer have released previously, no doubt another result of the band not being able to record together in the traditional sense. However, this is in no way a critique. IsoMusik is a compelling adventure like no other that refuses to fall flat at any point.
‘A Message For The Telepaths’ is an industrial gem that wouldn’t go amiss in a smoky European nightclub. Think Berghain, but you won’t be waiting in line for three hours only to be told that you’re not cool enough. This dance-inciting number is accessible to all, and therefore the perfect opener. The 40-second interlude ‘BBQ’ follows; it’s essentially a forum for the drunken musings of lead vocalist and wordsmith BK13.
The bassline runs deep in ‘Iso-Disko’, a funky piece reminiscent of bands like The Fall and Pulp: artists that Cowboy Flying Saucer have historically been likened to. The piano-led ‘Mini SD’ is a stark contrast; it’s haunting, incorporating an element of psychedelia that speaks to how versatile the band is.
Next is the poetic interlude ‘Strawberry Moon’, going from surreal to political and back again, before leading into ‘Pink Moon’, another grinding rock and electronic fusion made for the dance floor. This more or less marks the halfway point, and it would be impossible to say any of it has been “filler”; each piece is determined in its presence and offers divergence in the listening experience.
‘Sunrise’ features a gentleman who approached the band outside Bally Studios in Tottenham. He was recorded reminiscing about the raves of the ’80s, which can be heard on the track. They didn’t find out his name, so chances are he doesn’t know he’s been immortalized!
The second half of the LP is spearheaded by ‘I Become Lilliputian’, a more conventional Cowboy Flying Saucer track, and the glitchy, atmospheric ‘Crystalline Dimensions’; another addition to the style they’ve delved into while facing the complications of lockdown. These tracks are tailed by the final short interlude, ‘Cooliconi (Flower Moon)’: mysterious, eccentric, and very much alien. It then leads seamlessly into the last three tracks of the record.
After even the first listen of this album, you’ll become aware of the lyrics sometimes having a vague connection to the COVID-19 pandemic. Really, this should be obvious considering the LP’s name, but it makes more sense when you can draw the concept out for yourself. ‘Toto Coelo’ follows this theme, as does ‘A Singers Lockdown’, where BK13’s offbeat discourse once again features pride of place.
IsoMusik comes to a close with the nearly 10-minute long ‘Regeneron’. It might seem like overkill at first glance, but this is one of the strongest tracks on the record and likely wouldn’t be hitting that peak if the length had been reduced. It burns slowly, an ambient encounter that is all-surrounding. Like ‘A Message For Telepaths’ is the perfect opener; this is, without a doubt, the ideal swan song. Several different elements feature here, including a Donald Trump impersonation, while the background melody remains steady.
What we have here, ultimately, is a blistering mix, equally as peculiar and definite as anything you’d expect to come from Cowboy Flying Saucer. They worked within their means, which was undoubtedly a struggle, yet managed to put together a really solid record that sizes up well next to their back catalogue.