Faceless ‘Achievement’ (Noisebox, 1995)

Norfolk’s answer to The Chemical Brothers, Alistair Cormack and Thomas Albrighton were an ambient dub duo from Norwich. I know this because along with my good friend and fountain of brilliantly stupid ideas, Dominic, we managed them. I say manage…

I can’t quite recall how it happened, but I think it goes like this. Dominic worked at a music venue in the city and a compilation on the local Noisebox label came his way. Released in 1994, ‘Mechanical Paradise’ featured four “ambient electronic” acts – UXB, Toxic Frequency, Alpha Seven and Faceless. Alpha “Pete Roberts” Seven ran a night called Sofa with Dominic, so with him on the same album it’s likely that’s how we all met.

What I do know is Al and Tom met at university and bonded over a love of sub-bass. Turns out, as they neatly put it, they worshipped at the altar of it. Their two tracks on the collection – the choral loops, steel drum melody and Bentley Rhythm Ace-ism of ‘Edenville’ and the tinkling Aphex swirls, low-slung vocal sample and thudding bass of ‘DSL’ were epic transmissions. Listening to those tracks now (the CD is currently £2.91 on Discogs) you can hear why we wanted in. The problem was neither of us had a clue about what we were doing. Still, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

While we were at the wicket though, we released their excellent debut album, ‘Achievement’. It still more than holds its own. The western-y guitar twang loop, louche drum breaks and menacing wah-wahs of ‘Two Faceless Men’ is quite the opener. There’s the room-shuddering bass and curious “Is it a girl / Is it spider” sample of ‘That Little Feeling’, the steady pulse and earworm “Calm your life down” mantra of, erm, ‘Calm Your Life Down’… and that’s just the first three tracks. With the wave of quality DIY releases washing over these pages each month, Faceless would have been right up there. If they weren’t 25-odd years too early.

The promos for ‘Achievement’ went out in handmade, attention-grabbing wooden boxes. Living down the road in Suffolk, John Peel was regularly at gigs in Norwich, usually on his own. Dominic had befriended him some years earlier, offering some good gigging company. Which is how we came to deliver a copy of the album personally to Peel Acres, and how they got played on his Radio 1 show. Result. At one point, George Evelyn was slated to do a remix, but…

Faithless were kicking off at the same time and we would often get congratulated for landing our band in the charts. Who were we to disabuse anyone of the idea that it wasn’t our band? Faceless were so very good, they really should have been contenders. Managers, eh?

You May Also Like
Read More

‘Voices From The Dust Bowl’

The late 1990s and early 2000s threw up a slew of Air-style ambient masterpieces – but Fragile State’s 2004 classic ‘Voices From The Dust Bowl’ was criminally overlooked. It may just well be the UK’s ‘Premiers Symptômes’ of the era