On 2006’s Transparent Things, British trio Fujiya & Miyagi struck a compelling balance between their love of vintage Krautrock and contemporary dance music, resulting in a distinctive and relatively unheralded record that holds up well alongside albums by LCD Soundsystem. Since then, the band has devolved into something a good deal more derivative and, frankly, dull. Ventriloquizzing further loses the plot, as it unites Fujiya & Miyagi with producer Thom Monahan, best known for his work with folk-leaning acts like the Pernice Brothers, Vetiver, and Devendra Banhart.
Monahan is a fine producer when working within the framework of progressive folk and Americana, but his work on Ventriloquizzing is just a complete misfire. Fujiya & Miyagi has moved even farther away from the influences of acts like Kraftwerk and Suicide, and underwhelming songs like “Yo Yo” and “Pills” play like a parody of chilly, modern dance-pop. While that particular scene might be ripe for satire, Ventriloquizzing is played straight, and it simply isn’t smart or well executed enough for the album to work in that manner. Instead, it’s just a dreary, monotonous collection that flies in the face of conventional notions of dance music.
The title track and “Taiwanese Boots” unfavorably recall, of all things, the already-dated-at-the-time electroclash of Fischerspooner’s #1. The former finds singer David Best talk-singing over a skuzzy synth line and plodding 4/4 stomp, while the latter fails to build tension from playing an echoed piano figure over distorted electric guitars. “Sixteen Shades of Black and Blue” fares even worse, since its entire arrangement sounds exactly like Christina Aguilera’s “Keeps Getting Better,” already a bald-faced lift from Goldfrapp, just phase-shifted down a couple of octaves and slowed to a quarter of the tempo.
To that end, the album plays like a copy of a copy. Instead of looking directly to the electro-pop influences that made their first couple of albums so effective, Fujiya & Miyagi and Monahan instead look for inspiration in the work of artists who have already done a piss-poor job of incorporating those same influences into anything worth hearing. The result is an album that would have played as terrible and derivative in 2001 and that doesn’t play any better a decade on.