Fufanu: Sports

The foreground of Fufanu's Sports lingers like a bad feeling, one that could have been more frightening by pulling closer more elements within the background.



Label: One Little Indian
US Release Date: 2017-02-03

What Fufanu lacks in emotion, they make up for in tone. For the Iceland-based post-punk band, the essence of sound is the sense that something feels wrong. It is the slow rise of goosebumps on the skin to a subtle draft; it is the peering over the shoulder in the back of a cab—could someone be following or is it paranoia? When each string and electronic element line up in their sly way, there is a compensation for the explosive. Fufanu are not loud, and yet they do not intend to be creepily quiet, as Sports indicates.

The group’s debut Few More Days to Go had this tone in mind, inputting the sensation of brittle loudness, one akin to thin ice, into the mix. However, it was amidst the alternative and post-rock sounds of bands like Protomartyr and Placebo. Fufanu had a sound in mind, not wavering vocals to find what was right: vocalist Kaktus Einarsson knew what worked for him, and the band followed along like a gang in the night. But instead of going for the louder, night-life expressions of reality with Sports, the band employ a hint of tragedy to their sound.

If this album were a film character, it would surely be the Driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. From the get-go, “Sports” treats the listener like a roamer with an intention, one not necessarily brutal. Einarsson might sing about a “chocolate brownie”, but he never falters in seriousness. Guðlaugur Einarsson’s strings and Erling Bang’s drumming provides a promising look at the fine line between dancing to techno and the act of drunken swaying. These elements would also make their mark on “Gone for More”, a song with a cemetery's coldness along its tragic vocalizing and strings. The audience fights between moving like zombies to its slow vocals or dancing the night away when its electronics feel like synapses quickly reacting.

What compromises the record, however, is how the tone overwhelms the need for lyrics. The need to move, no matter how slow, is what leaves the effect on the listener; words filter through, not because Kaktus does not care, but because the more dynamic fixtures of sound are what leave one reflecting. When Kaktus analyzes his relationship in “White Pebbles”, the yearning in his vocals do much more than his holding on to sentimental things. “Your Fool” thus becomes the weakest piece on the record, being the sore thumb it is due to its sheer simplicity: it is the track on a dull indie film that heralds the protagonist’s “victory”. It becomes the band’s most normal track.

It is not that Fufanu are abnormal in their approach to instrumentation, but they still have flaws in the structure. “Liability” and “Just Me” have instrumental passages that are filler for the chorus that quickly approaches. They pop up due to their simple drumming and keyboard passages, often shedding their skin in ways that make the band look more Franz Ferdinand-like over their more effective darker shades. Throughout each track, the percussive elements are more background than foreground, taking away impact from moments that could have continued better with a loud clang than simple strikes. The closer “Restart” leaves the bad taste of hope when the album has continually drifted away from it.

Fufanu have a grasp of their sound, but what is in the background needs to be pulled closer in. Lyrics do not have to play second fiddle to a dreary tone, and Bang’s drumming needs not its simplicity that fails to break an audience’s concentration. Drums can slither their way like how the electronics do on “Syncing In”, so, too, can words. Sports is an album that slithers around the body, but rarely ever hisses.





The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.


Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.


Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.


'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.


10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.


'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.


The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.