Album Reviews

Fujiya & Miyagi – Lightbulbs

(Full Time Hobby) UK release date: 1 September 2008

David Best, Steve Lewis and their synth-bothering pals from Brighton are back, with a new album of gloriously understated electronica that makes you wonder why they aren’t better known.

Perhaps it’s because they’re a little too complicated for the mainstream, segueing together just a few too many influences to be simple enough for the charts. From Brian Eno to Aphex Twin, Beck to Philip Glass, their dreamy minimalism is too smooth for clubland, too infectious to be background music. Maybe they’re victims of their own success, or perhaps the world just isn’t ready for the idea that someone might have invited Kraftwerk in and dropped them an E when they weren’t looking.

Best’s half-whispered vocals are, as always, the icing on the cake. Not quite vocals, but something more than voice-as-instrument, he dances just above the harmonies untouchable and ungroundable, seductive and elusive, particularly on the evocatively (and appropriately) titled Goosebumps.

There is and always has been something uber-cool about Fujiya & Miyagi. Ice-cold and chilled, but in a warm and comforting way, they’re music to drift away to, before their Human League drum machine brings you back to Earth – check out Sore Thumb in particular for proof of this and revel in the way it slips seamlessly into a repetitive club backbeat Cagedbaby would be proud of.

The fact that they can take ’80s beats and graft them on to 21st century style is a good part of their charm. Informed and educated about the history of their genre, they’re too clever by half but we don’t really care when the result is as pleasurable as this.

Words are used minimally and to great effect. Tracks such as Dishwasher recall Beck at his best (you can hear parallels with Cellphone’s Dead especially, here) as does Pterodactlyl’s clipped drums, while Pussyfooting could almost get you out and dancing. As close to it as they’ll ever manage, in any case.

Then, as if to prove they can, on the title track they go all alt.Americana, as if Smog or Will Oldham had come to visit and invited himself to jam. As whimsical as it is beautiful, this is a glorious penultimate album closer before the fragile Hundreds And Thousands plays us out.

Of course, we shouldn’t let Lightbulbs pass without mentioning that although F&M have been around since 2000, this is technically only their second album, as 2006’s Transparent Things was a collection of previously released EPs. But so what? They might not be the most prolific band in the UK, but they’re definitely worth waiting for.

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More on Fujiya & Miyagi
Fujiya & Miyagi – Slight Variations
Fujiya & Miyagi – Fujiya & Miyagi
Fujiya & Miyagi – Artificial Sweeteners
Fujiya & Miyagi – Ventriloquizzing
Interview: Fujiya & Miyagi