Fudge Fingas, Now About How


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Recently I’ve been thinking a bit about a strand of popular music I’m labeling (in the absence of the talents of serial genre christeners and esoteric nomenclature know-it-alls Simon Reynolds or David Keenan) “British whimsy.” I’m talking here about Ivor Cutler, Position Normal, Basil Kirchin, Matthew Herbert, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Robert Wyatt. Not to be confused with the cloying twee of C86 bands or Belle & Sebastian, it’s a playful, occasionally dark, melancholic or satirical art, in the surreal tradition of Hilaire Belloc or Lewis Carroll. To this list I would add Gavin Sutherland’s work as Fudge Fingas, and his debut album Now About How (which even sounds like the sort of slogan that might grace one of Cutler’s famous badges) will not have me reassessing my mental filing system.

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Still, Mr Fingas’ influences are far from British. The classic U.S. jazzy house sounds of Glenn Underground, Blaze and Boo Williams are most prominent, with the actual jazz of Sun Ra definitely also perceptible. Jazzy is of course often accompanied by its pejorative “noodly,” and there are moments on Now About How that may test patience. For example, the languorous closer “It’s The Music” means the album shuffles out when it should sashay. For the most part though, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable ramble through Sutherland’s sprawling imagination. The previously released “It’s About Time” and “Me&U” are obvious highlights, matching tracky house to Sutherland’s excellent songwriting. “SOYB” (“shake out your body” pitch-shifted to an ever-shifting thump of pops, clicks and whirrs), “Polo” and the Bitches Brew pastiche “Mind Swamp” are cosmic explorations that sound like little else out there.

Of course, the aforementioned Herbert was the pioneer in terms of marrying the U.S. deep house sound to British humor and sensibilities, although thankfully Sutherland shows no signs of disappearing down the polemical cul-de-sac that his predecessor has. “Silent Statues” is the most Herbert-esque, with Sutherland putting his vocals through a range of effects to idiosyncratically emulate the smoky croon of Dani Siciliano as a clunky-in-the-best-possible-way beat keeps erratic time.

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If there is a criticism of Now About How, it is that it can be a bit too meandering. There’s nothing here that matches the directness or club-thump of the forthcoming Firecracker 10″ “What Works,” and the album occasionally ambles; “The Tree” and ironically, “S1ngularity” are as close to paint-by-numbers Fudge Fingas as the oddball producer is likely to get. Nonetheless, Now About How is an engaging curiosity that rewards close listening (although it should demand it more often); a worthy entry in my imaginary canon of British whimsy.

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