Their music loves to have a good time and get a sweat on, but can’t help flashing a thought or two in the direction of life outside the club
Now approaching 20 years as a band, Fujiya & Miyagi release a statement of identity. Slight Variations, their ninth album, summarises where they are in a musical sense, drawing on past influences while showing how they are being harnessed for the future.
As far as the present goes, we find them in rude musical health, sticking to the familiar and welcome traits that have characterised their music since Electro Karaoke In The Negative Style, but notably progressing with the times.
The standout trait is David Best’s sotto voce contribution. The vocalist is instantly recognisable and great on headphones when subtle sonic trickery is applied. At times his is a comforting presence but on occasion he adds a slightly sinister edge, a voice in your head likely to lead you astray.
That said, there are deeper elements to Slight Variations, suggesting that Best may be thinking about where he is in life. On a carefully calculated and successful first foray into reggae, FAQ hints at new departures. “Now we’re closer to the end than we are to the beginning,” he sings with what feels like a telling emphasis. “I’m not scared of change, I’m scared of staying the same,” he admits in a further aside.
Feeling The Effects (Of Saturday Night) ends the album with an admission that the aftermath of a big night has more lasting effects these days. Typically there is humour here too though, as Best’s ‘can’t get up off the floor’ couplet adopts exactly the same rhythmic profile as ‘oops upside your head’. Again the band’s clever wordplay wins through.
Speaking of aftermaths and the day after the night before, Digital Hangover is a particularly clever track. The band are at their best with these frank but often playful observations, and Best’s lyrics address the all too common symptom of over-exposure to screens, notifications and likes. Overindulgence is the cause, and brain freeze is the result.
Non-Essential Worker works well as a musical observation on how a key worker might perform. Its busy beats are part of an insistent, energetic Krautrock undercarriage, and they support a sparkling treble line adding mystery and even enchantment to an already potent mix.
Sweat is more primal, Best getting hot under the collar “adding fuel to a fire that’s already pretty hot”. New Body Language offers similarly upfront dancefloor material, its elastic bass line working out over a disco beat, and FLUX also feels the funk, its smoky atmosphere topped off by other chorus line mantra, “What you think of that?”
The elastic songs are ideally structured, making an album that presents Fujiya & Miyagi as a band at the junction of past, present and future. Emotionally they stand at a junction too, between introvert and extrovert. Their music loves to have a good time and get a sweat on, but can’t help flashing a thought or two in the direction of life outside the club. Add a healthy sense of humour and you have a tried and tested album right up there with their best work.