Fujiya & Miyagi - Ventriloquizzing - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Fujiya & Miyagi - Ventriloquizzing

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2011-01-17

Brighton four-piece Fujiya & Miyagi remain an interesting patchwork of influences: the almost-electro-pop plink 'n' churn of Hot Chip, the rhythms and textures of Krautrock bands such as Can and Neu!, the semi-chanting vocals and cattle-prod electronics of Silver Apples. All terribly cool influences, but on record Fujiya & Miyagi manage to transcend such namedropping to become very much their own creation. Their fourth album finds them possibly feeling their way to a more accessible context, albeit one that's heavily informed by 60s noir movies and psychedelia, and punctured with their odd, inward spiralling, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Ventriloquizzing starts very strongly with its title track. In fact, I'll be surprised if a stronger opening track is heard this year. A stately, mournful synth fanfare, recalling Vangelis, opens proceedings before the kind of perfect motorik beat which this band can surely hammer out in its sleep flickers into life. There follow synth undulations and hissing machine beats which sound heavily indebted to Harmonia's seminal Deluxe album. David Best's trademark whispered vocals muse on life as a puppet before the whole affair explodes in neon fireworks and then fizzes to nothingness. It's focused, punchy, leftfield but still accessible.

The album contains plenty of other highlights: the echoing, cranky piano of 'Taiwanese Boots', which sounds like the theme to a lost 60s spy TV show; the clattering beats and rainfall piano on 'OK', recalling Can at their most serene; and 'Minestrone', probably the album's most experimental track, on which Best's stream-of-consciousness vocals stalk around a story of the devil, sporting NHS spex, offering him some soup. It's a wonderful, absorbingly crazy moment, full of the kind of off-beat little details Jarvis Cocker might summon, which manages not to come off as forced or wacky thanks to some superb, restrained playing from the rest of the band.

Food also forms the centre-piece of Best's lyrical concerns on 'Taiwanese Boots', a song which seems to berate foodies for "nibbling couscous, sucking lemons, licking hummus off a plastic spoon". "You look ridiculous," Best sneers before revealing, "We eat processed meat made of Taiwanese boots". You don't hear Chris Martin singing this kind of stuff.

Penultimate song 'Tinsel and Glitter' is another interesting moment, apparently taking a swipe at Florence & the Machine: "Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air," Best begins, quoting the opening line from that band's smash hit cover, 'You've Got the Love', before deadpanning, "sometimes I don't". He goes on: "We can stick out fingers in our ears... A pair of stilettos can hit the high notes/ dressed up in ribbons and bows". A serrated organ sound straight off Suicide's first album arrives partway through to lend muscle to Best's bitchy sentiment.

Unfortunately, Ventriloquizzing has its weak moments too. These seem to occur when the band lapse into their trademark depressed art-funk sound with little variation. Second track '16 Shades of Black and Blue' features some nice analogue-sounding synth over a queasy beat very reminiscent of Iggy Pop's 'Nightclubbing', but it doesn't take this anywhere particularly interesting, while Best is apparently content to mutter the same threat to us over and over again. 'Cat Got Your Tongue' and lead single 'Yoyo' follow a similar pattern. None are bad, really, but you sense Fujiya & Miyagi are not really pushing themselves here. When a band's sound is so recognisable, a lack of variation can prove fatal to the listener's attention levels.

Overall, Ventriloquizzing is an album which contains some strong, innovative moments well worth checking out, but it's compromised slightly by what appears to be a variable degree of ambition on the part of its makers. However, there's enough here to make you suspect album number five might be Fujiya & Miyagi's masterpiece.

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