2 Bit Pie: 2 Pie Island

2 Pie Island, for the most part, might as well be the next Fluke record, even as it outshines anything Fluke ever did in both variety and scope.

2 Bit Pie

2 Pie Island

Contributors: Fluke, Syntax, Yukiko Ishii
Label: One Little Indian
US Release Date: 2006-10-31
UK Release Date: 2006-09-04

Fluke totally got the shaft.

Sure, Fluke tasted a little bit of success with that firecracker of a single "Atom Bomb", and "Absurd" sure got licensed to enough movies, commercials and video games to pay the mortgage for a couple of years, but other than that, Fluke was a largely ignored entity amongst the "electronica" explosion of the late '90s. And it's a shame, too, because Fluke had a better vocalist than Prodigy, they could drop a beat better than Orbital, and they were generally far more consistent than Underworld -- thus putting them, at the very least, in the same league as the heavy hitters that frequently outshined them in the popularity department. Maybe it was the emotional detachment inherent in the sort of cool that singles like "Atom Bomb" and "Absurd" trafficked in, maybe it was a sound that didn't go far enough away from electronic dance to cross over into other charts, or maybe Fluke's publicists simply didn't pay off enough people to get the sort of radio play necessary to be mentioned among the giants; regardless of the reasons, Fluke has largely been forgotten in the years since the release of the coulda-been-huge Risotto.

This isn't for lack of activity, necessarily. While not exactly prolific, the duo of Jon Fugler and Mike Bryant have released an album as Fluke as recently as 2003, the underappreciated Puppy, which incidentally garnered no buzz whatsoever. Obviously, it was time for a change.

2 Bit Pie is the name of that change, and whatever happened in the three years since Puppy, Fugler and Bryant seem revitalized by their time off. 2 Pie Island is the name of the debut album, though on most counts it might as well be the next Fluke record -- it carries on Fluke's tradition of huge beats, sequencer noises that could effectively be described as "percolating", and the all-but-trademarked deep, raspy vocals Fugler made part of Fluke's signature sound way back in '97. Where 2 Pie Island manages to go even so far as to outshine Fluke is in its variety, in no small part spurred by the pile of friends, neighbors and acquaintances that show up alongside Bryant and Fugler to help give 2 Bit Pie its own unique identity.

Not least of these is Jan Burton, formerly of Syntax, which, incidentally, was itself an offshoot of Fluke spurred on by the departure of founding member Mike Tournier. His presence provides vocal counterpoint to Fugler's bass, allowing higher tenor pitches to have their say amongst the bubbling electronics. Nowhere is this contrast more pronounced than in album opener "Fly", a Fluke soundalike that features Fugler doing his typical, stream-of-consciousness deep-voiced thing, until a beautiful chorus finds Burton stepping into the trance vocalist role, soaring over the distortion rather than swimming amongst it. That same duality drives the fantastically groovy and pleasingly minimal "Here I Come", thus marking the point at which the listener has accepted that 2 Pie Island will be, at the very least, a head-nodder from front to back.

Lest that same listener start thinking the band is quickly working itself into a rut at that point, however, the rest of the album would find such a sentiment to be a mistake. "Nobody Never" (the song that kicked off the 2 Bit Pie project) is a dark bit of house whose harmonized diva-vocals actually manage to recall the best moments KMFDM ever put to plastic, "PIL" is a smoothly orchestrated yet instrumentally distorted industrial rock workout destined for comparisons to Nine Inch Nails but more similar in aesthetic to Dink (remember Dink?), and "Mote" is a dramatic, downbeat whisper-fest fronted by vocalist Yukiko Ishii. And then, on the off chance that this wasn't enough variety, they toss an opera workout smack dab in the middle of the album, a six-minute masterpiece called "Soto Mundo" that features one Dilshani Weerasinghe, whose pure soprano pierces through the darkness of the sounds contained herein.

It is that darkness that unites 2 Pie Island, that darkness which serves as a bitten thumb to the nowhere-to-be-found Tournier, a sound that says dance music doesn't have to be all ecstacy and flourescent lights -- for what would we listen to in the end times? 2 Pie Island is never terribly innovative, nor is it ever making a grand artistic statement, but what it does, it does well -- dark, danceable electronic music that's just nostalgic enough in its approach to sound a bit retro (it has been 10 years since Risotto, after all). Time will tell whether 2 Bit Pie can achieve even the menial level of success that Fluke once enjoyed, but one thing's for sure now: The talent of the parties involved hasn't waned one bit.


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