Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fujiya and Miyagi: My Favorite Japanese Duo Who Are Neither Japanese Nor a Duo

I love Krautrock. Ever since I was introduced to the genre a couple of years ago I've been a sponge for anything new (to me) that came from that era. For my money, you'd be hard pressed to find a period of music history more rife with experimentation than whatever craziness was going on throughout Germany in the late 60's and early 70's. Bands like Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk, and Faust incorporated electronics and noise into rock music to create sounds that nobody had ever heard before. As someone who has a soft spot for noise, analog synths and sequencers, it's really no surprise this music resonates with me so easily.

Fujiya and Miyagi, who are actually a trio from Brighton, England, must share my enthusiasm because every time I listen to them I think to myself "man, these guys really sound a lot like a pop version of Neu!" Their debut album Electro Karaoke in the Negative Style and the superb follow-up Transparent Things reinforced this opinion many times over as many of the tracks borrow elements from Neu!'s first three records (driving bass lines, mechanized drums) and syth-heavy contemporaries like Cluster and Harmonia.

That isn't to say that Fujiya and Miyagi are copycats, because if they were then their music would be quite a bit more difficult to listen to. As much as I like many of the legendary Krautrock bands, I will be the first to admit their music can at time be cacophonous (try listening to the 4th and 5th songs on Tago Mago and you'll know exactly what I mean). Luckily, Fujiya and Miyagi speed up the pace with syncopated beats and lighthearted lyrics to give their music an upbeat feel. In this respect they share many qualities with mid and late 90's electronica than the experimental noise of 30+ years ago.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard Fujiya and Miyagi are due to release their new album Lightbulbs on September 16th. The first single off the album, "Knickerbocker", is just starting to make the rounds across the blogosphere and it's possibly the most Neu!-like of anything they've ever done. Think "Hallogallo" with a pulsating bass and nonsensical lyrics about vanilla, strawberries, and the ghost of Lena Zavaroni. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but the song is a toe-tapper and that's all I really care about. Hopefully the rest of the album manages to live up to this nugget of Kraut-dance.

Knickerbocker - Fujiya & Miyagi

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