While webcast concerts and performances swiftly became commonplace by the end of the 1990s, there had to be pioneers somewhere in earlier years, and FSOL was among them. Instead of touring for the Lifeforms album in 1994, they instead set up a series of appearances on a variety of radio stations, as well as concert dates involving broadcasting to specific venues. ISDN, named after the high-speed connection that made these ventures possible, compiles a variety of cuts from four different sessions, including one with Robert Fripp. All four were live performances, with only new material appearing on ISDN itself, making it a fine standalone collection of intrinsic value beyond its gee-whiz factor. While not a cohesive listen like Lifeforms by default -- the selections aren't organized in chronological fashion -- all are edited together to provide a reasonable enough simulation of a standalone performance. Stylistically the duo explore both the experimental reaches of Lifeforms' unsettling ambient approach and the rougher sounds which would come to dominate on Dead Cities. "The Far Out Son of Lung and the Ramblings of a Madman" makes for a great taste of the latter, with a steady, aggressive hip-hop loop mixed with muted jazz trumpet and cascading, unnerving synth swirls and sighs, not to mention sudden guitar stabs. Similarly aggro efforts appear, like the steady, booming breakbeat echo and intense synth bassline on "Slider." On the calmer but no less intriguing side, standouts include "Just a Fuckin' Idiot" and especially "Dirty Shadows," subtle and threatening in atmosphere, resembling a spooked-out In the Nursery track. Besides Fripp, there's one other guest on the album -- sort of: John Williams gets some of his acoustic bass work sampled for a core loop on "Smokin Japanese Babe," which predates the commercial explosion of trip-hop by mere months.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett