digital download/2×10″, WordSound Digital/Angstrom Records, 2009
Fujako is the angst-ridden offspring of two producers – one Portuguese, one French – digging a vein of experimental hip hop laden with primal urges and savage beats. The collaboration’s first opus, “Landform” (released digitally), heaps tailings high as mountains, a suitable backdrop to the refined, yet gritty, illbient ore these two have squeezed from the bowels of the earth. “Landform” is weighted with bass forged by sweat and stone, bolstered with acoustic instruments fired in devilish furnaces and articulated by voices raw from the fumes. To enter the rumbling soundscapes enclosed within this album is to journey to the desolate ends of uncharted territories, to test madness with incessant tapping and blaring foghorns, perhaps to return and perhaps not.
There is an intentionally rugged quality to Fujako’s sound, an unfinished and entirely natural bent resulting from recording with mostly acoustic instruments. It suits the weathered spaces of “Landform” well, if one believes there is still a place for lo-fi sonic alchemist aesthetics in a world of all-too-often slick production and audio tricks. The release takes a defensive stance in this respect, becomes insular and imperforate, guiding the listener down a forbidding trail of rough beats and shuddering bass, windswept ghosts and lost drones, unsympathetic to the last. Vocals are enunciated, angry, refined and soulful, executed both in English and French.
Together, producers Jonathan Uliel Saldanha (a.k.a. HHY) and Nyko Esterle (a.k.a. Ripit), having purportedly sequestered themselves in a mountain studio in Portugal, engendered an unforgettable exegesis of post-hip hop norms (if such exist) and pushed the envelope for this genre with startling ferocity. Grinding bass stabs and twanging strings in minor keys seem to be their trademark, textured with sounds as understated as wooden wind chime blocks knocking together, scraping stones, or the fleeting crack of shattering glass. At times off-kilter, embracing a lazy sort of percussive chaos (“Ahjar Phantom”), at others ruminative, etching a mournful patina over bottomless bass (“Queda De Regoufe”), or over-the-top abrasive, reminding one that sheltering in a grotto during an earthquake may not be the best idea (“Preparation” and “Sulphur Goat”). With only seven tracks and one (dark ambient) remix to round things off, “Landform” is certainly a manageable dose for those curious; it won’t disappoint.
— Dutton Hauhart