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Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things

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Artist: Fujiya & Miyagi

Album: Transparent Things

Label: Deaf, Dumb and Blind

Review date: Feb. 28, 2007

Following a trio of vinyl singles, Transparent Things collects new versions of Fujiya & Miyagi's six initial songs together with four new tracks (one of them a U.S. exclusive). Considering that this is essentially a collection, Things holds together with surprising, solid consistency. The duo of David Best (aka Miyagi) and Steve Lewis (Fujiya), with bassist Matt Hainsby, have forged a sound that fuses a slickly modern take on krautrock with up-to-date elements appropriated from the recent post-punk revival.

Based on pulsating rhythms and a thick, steady bass, the songs are alternately reminiscent of Appliance, a more sprightly Stereolab, and contemporaries such as !!! and Out Hud. Best's guitar phrases loop and scratch over solid drums while old-school synths invoke the ghosts of Kraftwerk and, occasionally, memories of New Wave stars.

Great bass lines anchor songs like "Ankle Injuries" and "Collarbone," with the former owing a clear debt to Neu with a fast, repetitive drum beat and minimalist guitar notes. The latter opens with a quiet guitar melody before the heavy, stomping rhythm kicks in. The title of "Conductor 71" gives away the game before the song even announces its Trans-Europe Express origins, layering Kraftwerk-stolen synths over a hypnotic rhythm. At the other end of the decades, "In One Ear & Out The Other" could be a B-side from !!!, a dancefloor-ready bass-drum workout with the requisite I'm-ever-so-bored vocals.

The album's vocals exemplify the real problem here, which is that while the music is appealing and well-executed, everything feels perfectly coordinated and absolutely calculated. The affected breathiness and accenting of the vocals, chanted rather than sung, signals an uber-hip detachment. Together with the high-gleam polish on the music, the album sort of slides past without breaking a sweat.

None of this is necessarily a negative, depending on what you're looking for. The songs here are, indeed, well-executed, and as a melange of their influences the band has produced the sincerest form of flattery in an enjoyable fashion. But ultimately the songs are like showroom dummies, if you will -- lacking the pores and textures, the life essence, that would make them breathe.

By Mason Jones

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