Critical Voices: Fujiya & Miyagi, Ventriloquizzing

January 27, 2011

Fujiya & Miyagi’s latest release may challenge its audience with some pre-listening confusion—what do you expect from a band whose name was lifted from that of the martial arts master from The Karate Kid? Apparently, it sounds like a talented duo of British synth masters. And with this week’s release of Ventriloquizzing, the group’s fourth studio release, Fujiya & Miyagi deliver a series of edgy electro compositions and artfully layered beats that would make even the staunchest of karate masters tap his foot.

Steve Lewis, the man behind Fujiya & Miyagi’s ominous beats and impressive electro work, absolutely shines on Ventroliquizzing. On “Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue,” a song apparently about abuse (or possibly a decidedly unsubtle threat of abuse), Lewis lays a foundation with a menacing base track, then slowly builds the progression as the song continues, enhancing it with electronic work until in culminates in a computer-generated horn blast. Its use of such unusual techniques is one of the album’s strongest points, a sample of the innovation that electronic music has to offer.

Sadly, the superior construction of “Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue” falls victim to Ventriloquizzing’s most rampant problem—lead vocalist David Best’s uninspired lyrical style and content. Amounting to little more than mumbling on most tracks, Best’s vocals are the antithesis of Lewis’s dynamic instrumentals. Several songs on the album, most notably “Universe,” “Cat Got Your Tongue,” and “Yoyo,” are half-witted personal attacks, frequently addressing the unknown subject with tired platitudes such as “you’re not the center of the universe,” and “you go up and down like a yoyo.”

Taking in Lewis’s awesome instrumental work with Best’s half-hearted attempts at singing is like opening a bottle of 30-year-old wine to complement a McDonald’s dollar-menu cheeseburger—the staleness of one ultimately detracts from the greatness of the other. Sometimes less is more, and this is especially true for Ventriloquizzing. The album would have significantly benefitted from some purely instrumental tracks. But even with these flaws, the album is still worth a play—as long as you try to focus on Lewis’s beats and melodies.

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