styrofoam, clingfilm and tinfoil
The first time I heard Fugu was in 1994 when the tiny Sugarfrost label asked me to contribute some fiction for the booklet sleeve of their debut 7". The songs were intriguingly titled just 'Fugu 2' and 'Fugu 7' which I figured was fine in a kind of Modernist assembly line manner. I was sure that fellow Frenchman Le Corbusier would have approved; the record, after all, being no more and no less than a machine for living in. Or something.
Fugu at that time sounded like a somewhat dazed isolationist in love with the 1960s, more specifically the 1960s of Brian Wilson. It was no surprise then to hear the London hipsters talking in reverential tones of Fugu some four or five years later, making reference to a clutch of records released on cool and naturally obscure Japanese, French and Spanish labels that had totally passed me by. Seems that all that time Mehdi Zannad, the mastermind of Fugu, had also been hanging with Wilson adoring types Stereolab and St Etienne, releasing split singles with both, all the time still neatly numbering the songs like some obsessive compulsive collector pinning his butterflies into cases for posterity.
Which brings us to 2002 and, hot off the back of touring the US and Europe with Stereolab, what I can only assume is the re-issue of the debut Fugu album (the album seems to have been initially issued in France in 2000). And guess what it's called? Fugu 1. What a surprise. Sadly though the numbering has failed on the songs themselves, so instead we have titles like 'Monocorde', 'Vibravox' and 'Clavipluck', all sounding in themselves like some '60s commentators ideas of 'instruments from the year 2000!' Which actually isn't that far from the truth, because if you had to pin down the music of Fugu, I guess that's what you could say: I mean, remember those hilarious films that showed us 'the house of Tomorrow', and 'the highway of the Future!' where the Future always looked like it was made of styrofoam, clingfilm and tinfoil? Well Fugu sound strangely like that; a warp back in time to look forward to the present, to present an alternative to how it all ended up. It's a strange feeling.
So as a result we have lots of Rhodes and harpsichords making loopy orchestral sweeps; lots of melody and counter melody, all of which of course courses with the very essence of Brian Wilson circa Sunflower or Wild Honey distilled down to just a couple of minutes (the longest track here clocks in at 3:57, and most are under three, if not two minutes long, or short, if you prefer). Like magical macro epiphanies, it's really all rather delectable, although like all the best delicacies you wouldn't want to overdo it.
Despite making such lovely fragments, however, I doubt Fugu will ever really rise from the cool hipster ghetto they have resided in for the past eight years, and maybe that's no bad thing. Maybe that's all Zannad really wants or needs: to remain lost in the arms of the ghost of a Brian Wilson who never grew old; to keep on scoring those micro-movies in his head. I wonder if he wants any more stories to go with them?
© Alistair Fitchett 2002