With a highly anticipated Royal Blood album in the pipeline and a football team that’s become the newest members of the Premiership Club, there’s plenty to keep people looking in the direction of the vibrant city of Brighton, despite recent tours announced by the likes of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Johnny Marr strangely choosing to visit the retirement haven of Bexhill-On-Sea instead. Electronic quartet Fujiya & Miyagi are another at the heart of the city’s current success rate – if on a less heralded scale – with the release of their self-titled sixth studio collection. It’s fair to say collection is an accurate word too, regardless of what the band themselves may say, because Fujiya & Miyagi collates the band’s three EPs dating back to last year.
Trying to find positives instead of contempt for the outside world, the new album is self-described as “a really strong resistance to society’s compulsion to suck the energy out of everything”. With influences ranging from post-apocalyptic sci-fi author JG Ballard, avant-garde New York cellist and producer Arthur Russell, Can and other more danceable krautrock that forms their core, results are actually, as always, more like Beloved (particularly in respect of the hushed, almost whispered, Jon Marsh-like vocal delivery from David Best) meeting Underworld than Kraftwerk.
Serotonin Rushes, lead track from EP1, starts the album after a brief introduction (Magnesium Flares). Its propulsive, pulsating beat and arpeggiated synths craft a tale about things “slowly unravelling” as narrator Best tells of feeling “the endorphins kicking in”, the instant hit of the track being a brilliant first step in the collection.
The rest of EP1 consists of To The Last Beat Of My Heart (where firstly an unexciting Kraftwerk like melody without robotics then develops into a thicker synth, string backed melody) and Freudian Slips (that appears with a The The like intro before picking out a dark, moody Underworld beat), although, somewhat surprisingly, the tracks do not follow the EP’s chronological path, instead being strewn across the whole album.
The stronger EP2 began with lead track Outstripping (The Speed Of Light). Set to an energetic beat, shards of electric guitar pierce the track like first light breaking through the early morning darkness to great effect whilst RSI employs flecks of guitar in a similar way to Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug amongst more dark mystery, its cataclysmic climax of urgent guitars and percussion being of particular excitement.
Swoon gives off a bland, industrial image that creates a vacant, post-punk Ultravox like presence (think Mr X from Vienna) with bubbling, random electronic pulses whilst Extended Dance Mix completes set two with spoken vocals recalling The Streets set to an incessant beat as Best tells of sending electrical current through “dead frogs” for a number that’s at odds with the rest of the album in that it confronts misery rather than positivity, appearing in the guise of ageing including weight gain and arthritis.
EP3, of course, makes up the rest of the collection. Firstly Solitaire blends its electronic pulses with overly repetitive lyrics: “when I kiss you I know”. Then instrumental Synthetic Symphonies will have those that don’t know The Cure’s A Forest inside out thinking it is The Cure’s A Forest. Lastly, the brilliant Impossible Objects Of Desire portrays the seven-minute story about the love of buying and listening to vinyl records, particularly the joy of uncovering a hidden treasure from within the racks, playing out like Beloved covering the Bronski Beat/Marc Almond version of Donna Summer’s 1977 disco colossus, I Feel Love – it’s a track that’s impossible not to move about to.
The result of a year long project where results were drip-fed to fans, Fujiya & Miyagi quite possibly represents the pinnacle of the band’s career. Remaining almost completely positive throughout, it comfortably achieves its aim of providing an enjoyable break from the doldrums of reality. It is, in fact, an intoxicating must-have album worth a place in any collection.