Available at Rocket Girl Records
By Mark Barton
Our radar has just detected a new space boogying Fuxa platter entering the atmosphere via the ever perfect rocket girl imprint. Heralding the sonic cosmic event that is "Dirty D" which is due to dock any day now "Sun Is Shining" is jettisoned to engage, communicate and once heard fry the floppy fringes of all self respecting space cadets the listening community over. Described exquisitely in passing by the attending press release as 'a beautifully deranged Suicide with heatstroke' this wig flipping stereophonic supernova finds Fuxa navigator Randall Nieman in stellar situ with ex Add N to X-er Ann Shenton for what is a seismic galactic groove that manages in its white hot visor adorned 6 minute transmission to literally shoehorn everything from kraut, binary pulsars, motorik mantras, BBC Radiophonics ,star gazed 60's styled Spector-esque girl bands and Sonic Boom styled orbital overtures into a hulking psychotropic dream machine with its settings yanked up to near critical mass. Totally out there. Over on the flip and by sedate contrast is 'inside' - a beautifully conceived star symphony decoded by disembodied spectral echoes, lunar lilts, pirouetting orbs, galactic garlands and fashioned together from the stuff that holds the stars in the night sky into a deeply alluring amorphous aural adventure.
Available now on Rocket Girl Records
This vinyl is a limited edition of 500 copies only - PICTURE DISC (artwork by the wonderfully talented Anthony Ausgang)
The LP also includes a bonus track Bubbles and Flugelhorn, originally on the Rocket Girl compilation (rgirl74) last year
A decade in the making, Füxa - comprising Randall Nieman, alongside Tom Meade and special guests - returns with nine songs of supercharged seasonal splendour. Electric Sound of Summer is perhaps Nieman's most cohesive record yet, in that the ever-present swirling synthesisers and uplifting melodies have been perfectly blended to form a new kind of pop music. It is at once heart-warming and goosebump-inducing - an album of stirring contrasts. Sophisticated guitar and piano lines share the sonic canvas with childlike, playful electronic experiments, evoking a spirit of both sun-blind optimism and wistful tranquillity.
The album is notable for a trio of inspired cover versions. On Daniel Johnston's 'Some Things Last a Long Time', Britta Phillips' (Luna, Dean and Britta) sumptuous vocals retain all the fragility and poignancy of the original, like an ice maiden slowly melting in a heat-wave. Elsewhere, Sarah Peacock (Seefeel, Scala) lends an eerie, claustrophobic air to 'Our Lips are Sealed', turning the GoGo's/Fun Boy Three smash hit into a dark, menacing ode to secrecy and jealousy. The reverse effect is achieved on Füxa's version of Suicide's 'Cheree', whereby Nieman transforms the sparse, sensuous classic into an altogether more uplifting, hair-raising anthem, bubbling with dynamic, stomping drum patterns and Dean Wareham's (Galaxie 500, Luna) reverb-rich vocals. Alongside the album's ecstatic track 'Marty Suicide', 'Cheree' is the ultimate tribute to those torchbearers of synth-laden, sinister lullabies, Alan Vega and Martin Rev, with whom Nieman has collaborated in the past.
While the cover versions act as a centre piece of sorts - a Day Glo triptych showcasing the versatility of Nieman's particular brand of pop - the instrumental pieces indulge the listener in their own arresting melodies, from the feelgood waltz 'I Love You' to the plaintive, piano-led 'Thank You Jesus'. The variety on this album is a testament to both Nieman and his guests' distinct talents. Other collaborators on Electric Sound of Summer include Mark Refoy (Spiritualized/Slipstream), Richard Formby (legendary producer, formerly of Spectrum), Stephen Lawrie (Telescopes), Willie B. Carruthers (Spacemen 3/Spiritualized/freelovebabies), Jerry Hope (the dust collectors) and Kyle Chunco (Saturn Batterie). The artwork is courtesy of the inimitable Anthony Ausgang: a fluid, cartoon-like composition which perfectly primes the listener for the playful delights within.
It is the cross-pollination of these collaborators' talents which gives Electric Sound of Summer its strength and bottomless depth. It is a celebration of creativity; of community; of music past, present... and Füxa.
As Chicago's Tortoise prepare to reissue their back catalogue, we're beginning to observe the stirrings of nostalgia for the early days of post-rock, before the term became synonymous with windswept guitars and shopworn dynamics à la Explosions In The Sky. I lost interest in John McEntire's gang and the genre they had helped sire soon after the game-changing Millions Now Living Will Never Die - but then, I'd always favoured the dronier fringes of the spectrum, groups like Bardo Pond, Jessamine and Azusa Plane, whose feedback-drenched, narcotic space rock resonated more for me than endless bass chord riffs and fussy pseudo-jazz structures, and for whom the term post-rock seemed altogether too clinical.
Randall Nieman's outfit Füxa were a particular favourite. Their debut album Very Well Organised (1996) combined dizzy melodies, rudimentary rhythms and a sweet sense of cosmic awe to captivating effect. Though hailing from Detroit, Nieman came across like the blissed out country cousin of Suicide's Martin Rev and Alan Vega, the Joe Buck to their Ratso Rizzo. It's appropriate that on the first Füxa album for a decade, Nieman transforms Suicide's "Cheree" into a song for swaying lovers, amping up the tenderness and dispensing with the latent menace of the original. "Marty Suicide" also pays explicit tribute to the New York duo, and the cover of Daniel Johnston's "Some Things Last A Long Time" is simply lovely, but the album's most attention-grabbing moment comes with an intriguing and inventive version of the Go-Gos standard "Our Lips Are Sealed", featuring a hushed, fragile vocal by Seefeel's Sarah Peacock. If the song's last significant sighting was Fun Boy Three's dubby detournement in 1983, it seems that the psychological state of its narrator has only deteriorated: Peacock whispers the cloak and dagger lyric as though cowering behind her bedroom door, conspiring with the listener against the violence of the outside world over Nieman's nervy electronic pulse. The song takes its place among such typically beatific and seductive Füxa originals as "SWF TwentyO-Two" and "Electric Sound Of Summer" like a wolf among the hapless flock, but lends the album its emotional core and its element of surprise. Not only is it good to have Füxa back, it's also pleasing to find they have some new old tricks up their sleeve.
- Joseph Stannard, The Wire
I listened to this without looking at, without even seeing the title and it was still the first chimes of Summer. This is Spacemen 3 warm, a kind of druggy depth that might almost be twee if it wasn't so headstrong, so sure of where it was going. I feel like I've spent over a year listening to Autumn and Winter records. The Tory/Lib Dem coalition doesn't do Summer. Artists have been almost uniformly dragging themselves along the grey, downcast days, making more of geist than zeit, letting music drift away into the dark, into (mere) hauntings and echoes. The best psych folk album of the year (Alexander Tucker's Third Mouth) mostly turns away from summer hues and even the cleaner, sharper ends of electronica (Rustie et al) seem headed towards caverns of frost and tunnels of ice...
Füxa then, are very welcome. I'm not even sure this is a perfect Summer album, but it feels like one. It's nice to feel a little warm and fuzzy. It feels lazy, in a good way.
You probably won't be surprised by this record, and in this case I don't think this is a bad thing. Despite the fact they've been away for ages (I could look it up but then maybe a fairy would die), they sound like they've just kept going. If anything, this sounds more like their influences than they ever did and this time most of their influences are literally here as well: bits of Galaxie 500, Luna, Seefeel, Spacemen 3... There's a ...cosiness about this that I like despite sort of hating that term and normally preferring, er, Coseyness (Jesus, sorry). Everyone seems to be having great fun, even when they're pitch-shifting down The Go Gos "Our Lips Are Sealed" into some slurred trip hop nightmare (doesn't beat the Fun Boy Three version, though). There's a predictable cover of Suicide's "Cheree" which is unpredictable only in the sense that it's probably my favourite version of the song (and it's against some pretty stiff competition); it drifts in and out of consciousness, slipping by on (I guess) lazer guided melodies. Beautiful, even for an old guy like me who thought they were drained by that song.
The originals are similarly sunswept; "Electric Sound of Summer" ambles lazily towards a conclusion you might need a sharper intake of drugs to make a tune here) before the epic, piano-led ambient melt of "Thank You Jesus" sends you further out towards the sun... There's nothing here you wouldn't want to be here if you've heard Füxa before and this is oddly reassuring. In fact, it's not even odd; of course you want this to be released this Summer, you need it. The sun is gonna come out, summer is a-cumen. You can start blowing up the floating chair, sweep the pool, start the ice-crusher...
Be lazy. The revolution will come a little later, this year.