Throughout the course of their Transparent Things Fujiya and Miyagi prove excessively deceitful. Their group’s name provides the most obvious front; one assumes from the crew’s handle that a duo of Japanese gentlemen pieced the resulting tracks together. In fact, a trio of British males masterminded the collection of tunes. This instance only begins to scratch the surface of the misleading nature of the record.
The vast majority of the album’s cunning comes in musical form. At the very outset of the disc listeners hear whispers of “Fujiya, Miyagi” repeated borderline expressionlessly for an extended period of time. Soon fans begin to expect the abandonment of the chant in favor of a turn towards the true beginning of their lyrical wordplay. However, the band leaves listeners hanging infinitely longer than expected. As the monotony nears a point when it ceases to intrigue enthusiasts and instead annoys them with its unbearable triteness, lead vocalist David Best bursts into regular singing. Such an uncanny ability to toy with people’s assumptions leaves the victims of such trickery wanting more. Rather than confidently predicting each and every turn of a horribly boring and unadventurous album, fans anxiously anticipate the unexpected twists and turns Transparent Things brings to the table.
Of course, such experimentation in this trial and error process leads not only to overwhelming success but casual disappointment as well. Whereas Best, Lewis, and Hainsby manage to craft overall impressive works with shocking regularity, some of their ambitious enterprises go awry. In particular, louder tracks such as the relatively bouncy “In One Ear and Out the Other” fail to grip listeners to any great extent. Though the singing hardly registers as aggressive, it lacks the undeniable appeal of the hushed tones of the more impressive tracks. Still, even moderate flops justify themselves by affording fans some sort of interesting redeeming quality. Here Best rolls many an “R” with an exotic flair. This proves just enough to pique interest during an otherwise underwhelming effort.
Lyrically the three gentlemen deliver yet another impressive performance. Their unique approach spends a respectable portion of time pondering the materialistic origins of man. “Collarbone” outlines the priorities of a young man craving new kicks, which he sees as prerequisite to hanging out with a significant female. Best then chugs through a child’s song that journeys through the human body. Other passages read equally well and creatively.
Instrumental tracks play beautifully too. “Conductor 71” and “Cassettesingle” each use distinctly electronic tweaks to maintain an attractive and alluring air. Such songs invoke many inevitable comparisons to groups such as LCD Soundsystem for their “45:33.”
And the comparisons spiral from there, now with respect to not only instrumental parts, but also the album as a whole. Critics and publicists quickly refer to luminary Krautrock acts Can and Neu! while the more casual observer considers artists such as Boards of Canada, a more tame MSTRKRFT, and numerous artists on DFA Records, for instance Hot Chip and the Juan Maclean. Despite so many related acts, Fujiya and Miyagi manage to separate themselves from the pack. The band owes much of that feat to their bold willingness to test people’s expectations.