There is perhaps a misconception that creating and recording largely experimental and oblique electronic music is a solitary process. You can easily imagine the clichéd image of the tortured professorish technician obsessing over minute details of sound in search of creating a machine-made masterpiece. Füxa has certainly been making that kind of endlessly fascinating electronic music. However, while Randall Nieman has been the sole musician under the Füxa name since Ryan Anderson’s departure in 1998, Dirty D, his second album in two years following Electric Sound Of Summer, is a hugely collaborative project. The sense of playful creativity runs through the 12 pieces of music here.
Dirty D sees Nieman working with collaborators old and new. Indeed, the 16 strong list includes former Füxa partner Ryan Anderson and Ann Shenton of Add N To (X) who Nieman first worked with 13 years ago. It is some new cohorts though who help to create the lovely feeling of blissful, gentle euphoria that surrounds the album.
There is a curious mix of airlocked electronica and gaseous synthesiser echoes aligned to weeping and yearning slide guitar provided by esteemed pedal steel player BJ Cole, a newcomer to the Füxa oeuvre. Cole’s work helps to give Dirty D its strong emotional core. The music may be largely electronic based but it is alive, organic and heartfelt. You can easily lose yourself in the supremely graceful and quite beautiful sounds of Forward, which is a wonderfully graceful synth ballad. There are no words, and there is no need for them. The overarching synth and aching guitar say all there is to say.
The music flits playfully and beguilingly from ambient drifting soundscapes (Blue Barracuda) to gloriously fuzzy, spacey synth psychedelic as best exemplified on the single Sun Is Shining. Here, both Nieman and Ann Shenton’s synths engage in a rousing battle as the music careers along with a mechanical drive and sense of forward motion.
Despite much of the music being soft focus with spindly guitar lines completing the electronic tones, there are a few harder edged rougher moments. The less refined industrial beats of Razzmatazz are striking as is the disorientating beats and shadowy vocals of Shout Out Loud. The latter sees Nieman putting his own voice to tape for the first time. Perhaps he is at ease with his wide supporting cast of accomplices.
The album is completed by a cover version that perhaps best indicates the emotional resonance of this work. For while the music can often by oblique and dense it is also deeply heartfelt. Stand By Me by Ben E King is an oft-covered standard but in its plaintive purity it provides a touching end to a very personal record. It’s apposite that Nieman lends his own voice to the recording. As the song progresses it morphs into a rendition of Linda Rondstadt’s Different Drum by American singer Britta Phillips. It’s a glorious crescendo on which to finish.
The Füxa we have now is different to the one that emerged in 1994. Despite being ostensibly on his own, Randall Nieman has sought out a coterie of like-minded musical friends to create a Füxa album that is beguiling in sound and rich in emotion.