Fujiya & Miyagi – Ventriloquizzing

Fujiya & Miyagi – Ventriloquizzing
Yep Roc Records: 2011

If you want to know about this album, the first thing you should do is go to their website, and enter the sinister world of Fujiya & Miyagi. As you point at the options tabs – the ventriloquist’s dummies undertake an array of menacing acts, such as exploding or setting on fire. Enough to give the more unstable of us automatonophobia. It kept me entertained; anxiously entertained that is, for well over two minutes, which is a lot for a self-confessed member of the “instant gratification, click-click, why isn’t this loading quicker generation.”

First off, don’t be fooled into thinking this is one of fictional Karate don Mr Miyagi’s relatives. These guys are not Japanese. They are not a Karate-kicking-duo or even remotely oriental. Fujiyi & Miyagi is made up of UK south coasters Steve Lewis, Matt Hainsby, David Best & Lee Adams. Ventriloquizzing, their fourth album, is a tense, creepy affair constructed with layers of analogue synths, repetitive bass lines and edgy whispers. While Krautrock has always been their main influence, this album clearly departs from the mould set by their previous releases. Perhaps this can be attributed to the shared production of this album with Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver) – a first for F&M.

The majority of tracks on Ventriloquizzing reach their climax quickly and spend the remaining time not doing much more. That was one of my big frustrations with this album – I wanted more, another level, another break, another beat. Take “Minestrone” as an example. This track promises so much with its haunting shrill keys and tumbling bluesy riffs but never takes you beyond this. On the rare occasion that things are pushed to that next level, as in “Cat Got Your Tongue” or “Sixteen Shades of Black & Blue” the results are superb. The whirring synth, repetitive keys, luscious violin and intimidating dark lyrics of 16 shades (“I’ll beat you…16 shades of black and blue”) build to create an electro-glam masterpiece.

One thing that I didn’t want more of was David Best’s vocals, which drone on like nursery rhymes for insomniacs, dragging the life out of much of this album. I’m not against speaking on tracks, but when it’s a focal point you need to come up with something more startling than “you go up and go down like a yo-yo” or the perhaps ironic “you love to hear the sound of your own voice.” It’s a real shame as the tracks that underlay Best’s distinctive deadpan delivery are very good, if not particularly expansive. Lyrically – less would have delivered more.

This album shares a great deal with the art of ventriloquism – it’s an unconventional, menacing pursuit, which will remain an enigma to the majority and an underground treasure to the minority.

★★½☆☆
2.5 out of 5

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  1. I’ve enjoyed f+m since I first heard them, and nevertheless lightbulbs was a disappointment. They have a housey vibe driving them, and as a lover of a bit of 4/4 I find f+m sound earily soothing. Seeing them live a few times and though never once different (Best being fairly nervous at a big, festival crowd) his whispered vocals can leave you drifting. The bands never been in your face. But thats part of the charm.

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