Sly funkatronics from smart Brighton four-piece.
Rob Hughes 2011-01-07
Fujiya & Miyagi are a curious hybrid of time and place. Their insistent grooves owe much to the pulsing motorik of 70s Germany – Can and Neu! especially – but their taut white funk and skinny beats jiggle somewhere between 80s New York clubland and early Human League. That’s not to say they’re retro. Like James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem, it’s the way they assimilate the pieces that makes them worthy of attention. Then there are the songs themselves. 2006’s Transparent Things provided strutting odes to ankle injuries and shoelaces; while Lightbulbs (2008) offered tributes to the late Viv Stanshall and former US chess champ Bobby Fischer.
Ventriloquizzing, their fourth album, finds the quartet in more experimental mode, though they’ve clearly not abandoned their dance aesthetic. Both Cat Got Your Tongue and Yoyo dash along nicely, David Best’s trademark whispered vocals adding a vaguely sinister sense of foreboding. But producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver) also helps coax a new set of textures. Spilt Milk, for instance, starts off all Kraftwerk, then just gets progressively weirder. As does Pills, which builds like some spacey 60s psych oddity, replete with plinks of trebly electro.
There are strange lyrical twists too. Minestrone, with its Doors-y keyboard motif, summons up an old satanic rite enacted around a hill fort in the South Downs. And Tinsel & Glitter seems to be a less than flattering address to X Factor culture: "We can stick our fingers in our ears / A pair of stilettos can hit the high notes / Dressed up in ribbons and bows". There’s a delicious moment where synth player Steve Lewis delivers a chugging riff that sounds hot-wired from Suicide’s first album. Other stylistic forays aren’t quite so successful. Take Sixteen Shades of Black & Blue, which thumps along to a stack-heeled glam beat, but doesn’t really go anywhere.
It’s a minor quibble though. Fujiya & Miyagi are an invigorating mix of the cerebral and the visceral. In a just world, they’d be the new lords of the dancefloor.