Release Date: Jan 25, 2011
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
The band name might sound like the worst buddy-cop comedy ever, something that would star Adam Sandler and a karate-master dog. But this British-not-Japanese indie band has built up an impressive body of work, culminating in their smashing fourth album. They specialize in churning, bass-heavy groove-bombs in the Krautrock style — it sounds like they’ve worn out a few vinyl copies of their favorite Can records — plus a dose of Nineties trip-hop, decorated with organ blasts.
No disrespect to the rest of the band, but the real reason I love Fujiya & Miyagi is David Best’s vocals. Not lyrics, mind you, which are fine if a bit word salad-y at times; vocals. 2006’s stellar Transparent Things paid faithful homage to the pulsating, repetitive grooves of ‘70s Krautrock, yes, but these days it’s not like F&M are the only band doing so.
With a name that conjures up images of David Carradine and Jackie Chan gracefully taking on the forces of evil, the trendy seaside resort of Brighton is probably the last place you'd expect to find an outfit entitled Fujiya And Miyagi. Or you might not have in the past: they're not exactly spring chickens, having created experimental soundscapes of a rhythmic nature for over a decade now, initially as a duo and currently operating as a four-piece. If anything, they're a glowing endorsement for the benefits of endurance and perseverance - most artists in a similar position to them would have thrown the towel in many moons ago, let alone continuously strive for recognition while conjuring up four albums in the process.
Fujiya & Miyagi have cast their fourth LP in the mould of Michael Redgrave's segment of the classic British horror film Dead of Night: ventriloquism as a conduit to the surreal and sinister. Slow-burning funk basslines throb throughout, while singer Dave Best's whispered monotone feels uncomfortably intimate. There's a paced neurosis to Ventriloquizzing, with pill addictions, paranoia and crushing despondency on end track Universe, which has Best lost in the mantra: "You love the sound of your own voice/ You are not the centre of the universe.
A dance party that rock For the longest time, it seemed that Brighton, U.K.-based four piece Fujiya and Miyagi would belong to the seaside town’s mod clan. But with the release of concept album Ventriloquizzing, the group can comfortably blend with the rockers as well, adding hints of scuffed leather jackets to its slick, cool electronic stylings. The hard buzzing of “Pills” carries the weight of its spoke-sung lyrics: “These little pills / Will give you / Dizzy spells.” The heavy fizz sputters along like a souped-up Vespa—with Marshall amp stickers keeping the paint from peeling.
The British quartet masquerading as a Japanese duo is back with its fourth full-length, Ventriloquizzing, bringing along a signature slinky groove and wordplay that borders on the absurd. However, for a group that once transformed ice cream flavors into an all-out battle cry, the new and darker sound translates to sleepy, whispered vocals in a minor key. The earworms are largely interchangeable, forming an album that’s easy to enjoy but nearly impossible to remember; few tracks rise above the pleasant and forgettable fray.
In a blue hue illustrated by the song title “16 Shades of Black and Blue,” Fujiya & Miyagi spin over to the cooler side of the color wheel. Ventriloquizzing sees the Brighton group expanded to a quartet, and performing their chill electro-pop with less pep as they step away from the warm reds and yellows of Lightbulbs into a shadowy haze. Assisted by producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver), their change in sound is much like the transformation that Air made after the “Sexy Boy” camp of Moon Safari for 10,000 Hz Legend, or the route Beck went on The Information, operating with icy electronics throughout.
Somewhere between [a]Liars[/a]’ sinister ponderings, [a]Beck[/a]’s low-key funk and the bizarre, be-masked aesthetic of [a]The Wave Machines[/a] sits the weird world of ‘[b]Ventriloquizzing[/b]’ – a world where David Best’s speak-sing monotone reigns supreme, strutting basslines abound and the line between sexy and sex pest is but a blur. At its high points (‘[b]Sixteen Shades Of Black & Blue[/b]’, ‘[b]Pills[/b]’) these components combine to create the kind of low-slung glam funk that makes us feel a bit dirty-in-a-good-way. At other times we’re not sure whether we should be laughing or feeling uncomfortable; either way ‘[b]Ventriloquizzing[/b]’ is certainly no dummy’s game.[b]Lisa Wright[/b] .
Fujiya & Miyagi have always been open about their admiration for Krautrock icons Can, but that influence has as much to do with methodology as mere mimicry. Using a literal interpretation of the concept of "art rock," Can famously approached recording much like sculptors, chiseling down extended, amorphous jams into more manageable forms, if not quite linear songs. Fujiya & Miyagi simply take this logic one step further, distilling the syncopated grooves and mantric incantations of Can circa Ege Bamyasi or Future Days into accessible dance pop.
With influences as easily discernible - and obviously cool - as Can, Kraftwerk and Bowie, it's tempting to classify Fujiya & Miyagi's sound as more style than substance. And though it kind of is, that doesn't make it any less listenable. As on their previous albums, the UK four-piece don't stray far from their established model. Emphasizing rhythm more than melody, the songs throb along on funky bass lines, repetitive drumbeats, spacey sci-fi synths and hushed, whispered vocals.
On 2006’s Transparent Things, British trio Fujiya & Miyagi struck a compelling balance between their love of vintage Krautrock and contemporary dance music, resulting in a distinctive and relatively unheralded record that holds up well alongside albums by LCD Soundsystem. Since then, the band has devolved into something a good deal more derivative and, frankly, dull. Ventriloquizzing further loses the plot, as it unites Fujiya & Miyagi with producer Thom Monahan, best known for his work with folk-leaning acts like the Pernice Brothers, Vetiver, and Devendra Banhart.
Sly funkatronics from smart Brighton four-piece. Rob Hughes 2011 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.