(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, February 25, 2011

CD review - Fujiya & Miyagi, Ventriloquizzing (2011)

Brighton's Fujiya & Miyagi have been around for quite a while, cruising beneath everyone's radar. They garnered a bit of attention recently with their music picked up for a couple of commercials, but their newest album, Ventriloquizzing, doesn't pander to any kind of populist appeal. It's moody and intriguing -- more inviting than gushing.

The album is a hearty stew of contrasting references and influences: Can, Depeche Mode, Beck, Talking Heads, and Stephen Malkmus. Krautrock, synth pop, and a kind of alternative, tightly constrained funk hardly seem like a recipe for success. But the balance between these disparate pieces creates a delicious tension and a sense of deeper meaning. The layers of kraut keyboards set a subtle psychedelic undercurrent throughout Ventriloquizzing that fits with the deadpan vocal delivery.

Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue feels like a reworked version of Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. The synthpop vibe infuses the emotionless violence of the lyrics with a stormcloud threat. The brief keyboard solo highlights a sense of inevitability.

The Beck comparison is rooted in the detached singing and strangled, stylized funk of songs like and Cat Got Your Tongue, Yoyo, and Taiwanese Boots. This latter has a fair amount of Talking Heads (Crosseyed and Painless) lurking in its depths. Throughout these songs, the moody keys add a mild psychedelic aura. Then, for a change, the vocal phrasing and abstract melody of songs like Spilt Milk or Tinsel & Glitter sound like a medicated Jicks-era Stephen Malkmus.

It would be best, though, to ignore all of these comparisons because they miss the unique flavor of Fujiya & Miyagi's sound. Ventriloquizzing offers a sonic snapshot of a particular psychic mindscape. Drifting currents of subconscious ideas flow around passive aggressive islands. Tension is in the very air. And, yet, there's a degree of acceptance.

And it's got a smooth groove. A fine smoky single malt with about 7 drops of water to open the malt will pair nicely.

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