Artist: Fluke
Title: Puppy
Label: One Little Indian
By: Vince Hart | 4 August 2003
  1. Snapshot
  2. My Spine
  3. Another Kind Of Blues
  4. Hang Tough
  5. Switch/Twitch
  6. YKK
  7. Expo
  8. Electric Blue
  9. Baby Pain
  10. Nebulus
  11. Blue Sky

Fluke "Puppy"Fluke "Puppy"

Out Now on One Little Indian

Fluke, one of electronica's most longstanding heavyweights, have proven their ability to churn out music with both an inventive underground sensibility (on AND off the dancefloor) and an infectious flare (through the use of powerful hooks and Jon Fugler's - sometimes raspy, sometimes Indie, but always - inimitable vocals). The duo of Mike Bryant and Jon Fugler (formerly a trio until Mike Tournier decided to pursue a solo path a few years ago) have perfected their production and songwriting abilities for the last 15 years, starting with their humble and little known retro single "Island Life" - a subconscious tribute to popping pills on an unnamed tiny remote island - and continuing through 5 albums and a string of hit singles, catapulting them to a level of worldwide success only rivalled by the likes of Prodigy & Underworld. Who can forget their biggest hit singles "Atom Bomb" & "Absurd" which appeared on countless compilations, films and video games? Fast forward six years and you have Fluke's sixth long player on the eve of release, propped up by a flurry of progressive house singles ("Pulse," "Hang Tough," & "Switch") with a grungy rockstar edge, not to mention an appearance of yet another album track ("Another Kind of Blues" aka "Zion") in one of this year's most substantial Hollywood blockbusters, Matrix:Reloaded. One thing's for sure, Fluke's arsenal has officially reloaded and it's full deployment is about to begin.

The journey starts with “Snapshot,” which is literally a snapshot of Fluke just seven years ago. Monstrous breaks, dirty analogue stabs, wailing electric guitars, gritty vocals from Jon Fugler himself, and a generally wicked atmosphere. The vocal content seems to relate the stories of several individuals attempting to find themselves in life. Short but sweet and a potential future single based on the length and the upfront sound.

“My Spine” enters the arena next with it’s filtered bass guitar line and dark progressive breaks vibe. This is the infamous “Untitled #5” which appeared on Sander Kleinenberg’s 2001 Essential Mix, and had everyone clamoring for it’s title. Two years later and One Little Indian manage to uncover this gem for the rest of us plebes. Jon Fugler is once again represented on vox yet his raspy vocal style somehow manages to sound unique compared to “Snapshot” in that it comes across as deeper and smoother. The lyrics seem to be documenting the thoughts of a meth addict (“my feet don’t touch the down”). The production trickery and atmospherics are a hallmark of “My Spine” and it continually builds with only a filter sweep providing a moment’s relief. The layers are thick & creamy on this one. I’m honestly surprised One Little Indian picked “Switch-Twitch” over this one as the album launch single.

“Another Kind of Blues” subtly climbs in over the top of “My Spine.” Anyone who saw Hollywood’s cash cow sequel Matrix:Reloaded should recognize this from the film, as it was licensed for the “liberating” sultry rave/sex scene. This is not the first time this track has hit the public arena, however. Rewind to late 2001 and Appaloosa, a child label of Junior, released a little known Fluke tune titled “Slap It.” “Another Kind of Blues” is basically an edited revamped version of said tune. It’s a driving progressive number in an inimitable Fluke/Underworld style with a syncopated bassline, dramatic choir-like pads, grinding analog synths, some indiscernible vocoded growl and more.

“Hang Tough” sneaks in with it’s uplifting message from Jon Fugler himself. This was the previous vinyl only single released by One Little Indian several months ago. Strictly for the serious dancefloor and headphone aficionado, this is another building progressive piece with electric guitar served a la carte. Jon Fugler’s efforts somehow manage to slightly resemble the vocal flare of David Gahan (of Depeche Mode) if only for the “Dream on” vocal. Jon’s message is clear: persevere even when you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, as you’ll one day break through. Also,never stop dreaming. It could be said the darkness of the tune is an offset to the positive message in the vocals, mirroring what the despairing recipient of said message is going through, all the while managing to be simultaneously danceable: a most impressive hybrid of emotions.

We’re given a moment of relative silence before “Switch-Twitch” makes an entrance of grand proportions: a fast-moving bouncy analog synth/bassline combo that quickly gives way to the 4/4 kick. Continuing in a similar but more layered fashion, this number pours on the layers thick. Syncopated percussive work and vinyl scratching synergize with the bassline and punchy rhythm to push the intensity upward. Duelling yet complementary melodies fill the aural backdrop while panned sweeps and other indiscernible instruments create a 3D barrage of sound. Once again, Jon is offering a message of hope: regeneration; starting again, getting a second chance. The music seems to be encouraging the listener to follow through with this new life. This track is divided into 2 separate parts, the second, of which, is instrumental and begins about six minutes in when the key is transposed upwards a few steps to a major. From here, it builds in a similar vein as before but there is a lead synth line melody instead of a Fugler vocal offering. Also, the guitars are left behind and the synth stabs more pronounced. The envelope on the main synth lead continues to open wider until the bottom drops out and track 6 begins. The second half of “Switch-Twitch” is one of the most musically uplifting tracks found on Puppy.

“Ykk” sets the stage with a pulsating analog bassline coupled with a dirty synth and some tumbling tribal percussion. The soundscape and atmosphere on “Ykk” are second-to-none and rival Fluke’s contemporaries (read: BT). It brings to mind an image of the future with neon-lit cylindrical skyscrapers rising into a midnight sky. Jon Fugler is given the solo treatment here with a repeated vocal pattern not too uncommon from previous Fluke releases (“new light, new space, new signs, new state, new laws,” “been this, been that, been cheap, been trashed,” etc.). The occasional subtle stutter can be heard in random stanzas, contributing to the dark futuristic industrial vibe. A revolving acid line serves to complement Jon’s vocal meanderings while sonic wails and sirens chime in the background. The momentum eventually comes to a lull and “Ykk” fades to black.

The mainly instrumental “Expo” begins as a bassline from standstill as we hear sonic ocean waves being panned and distorted overhead. A funky break enters as indiscernible blips make their way into the mix. Orchestral pads and a sampled instrument of eastern descent set us up for a mystical ride. This is a subtle nod to the Fluke of old with the melodical meanderings, but with an updated sound for the 21st century. As the melody unfolds and the female “ahh’s” make their appearance, it conjures up images of gargantuan pyramids dotting the landscape of some unnamed desert of legend and lore. As the melody unravels and sonic trickery is panned overhead, another pulsating synth enters the mix and “Electric Blue” is ushered in by an ensuing bassline.

Sneaking back in with more four-to-the-floor kick drum action, “Electric Blue” welcomes a bass guitar with the funkiest of basslines (one that harkens back to the “Electric Guitar” era), as well as Fugler’s whispering vox (“out of synch, out of touch, out of breath, out of gas, out of time, out of cash, out of bounds,” etc.) panned and layered for an engulfing effect. Soaring and flanging pads are introduced which offset the funky, dark intro with a heavenly bridge and a chord of finality as the bass guitar once again rears it’s funky head. The end of “Electric Blue” could have definitely used some further refinement as the outdated acid line and abrupt conclusion fail to do it justice.

“Baby Pain” starts right away with the trademark bouncy analog/bassline action so commonly found in Fluke’s repertoire. Jon is once again on the gritty side of things and this time sensuality is on the platter. The message is almost one of masochism where he’s dwelling about his previous lover to the point of misery, yet there seems to be some reconciliation and hope for the future. There’s something just around the corner that he knows will make everything better between them again. On the production side of things, this is pure sex, w/ a chunky big beat groove right around 100bpm, stabbing guitars and a heavily pronounced grinding synth. The addition of a female uttering “baby pain” in the most sultry way possible makes for an orgasm on many levels.

“Nebula” picks up from the exhausting “Baby Pain,” offering a post-coitus chill-out. This is more mystical instrumental funk served with some subdued electric guitar. Congas set up the stage and the bpm intiates at a staggering 74bpm. The melodies are layered thick on this one coupled with some sexy divas humming along in unison. About halfway through, the tempo doubles and the guitar is fed into a cutoff filter of some sort. The major key shifts to it’s minor equivalent and we’re suddenly in the middle of a brooding and heavily chopped up syncopated breakbeat ditty. The original guitar line from the beginning is eventually looped in it’s original form coupled with it’s cutoff equivalent creating a notion of psychedelia. We quickly wind down to the completion and the journey is almost complete…

“Blue Sky” might as well be from a different album (or a different era in Fluke’s history). It’s the most hopeful and uplifting piece from this album and, again, features Jon Fugler on vocals, but in a more human form (no excessive raspyness or grittiness). Overall, this is one big slice of cheddar but it does tend to grow with repeated listens. Filled to the brim with wailing divas, artificial orchestral pads (those that you can find on some of Fluke’s early works), bass guitar and the ever-present lyrics: “I wanna’ see the blue skies. Show me the sunshine. Come back to me,” this sounds oddly outdated on Puppy, but it was obviously intended. It would perhaps be best described as Fluke’s take on gospel music. The question is whether you can stomach and perhaps grow to love it.

It also begs the question as to what is the next logical step for fluke and album #7? Only the future knows but, in the meantime, you have the chance to feast on the present and Puppy, one of the best dancefloor/home-listening albums this summer and one of the few heavyweight long-players of recent that will not disappoint! Don’t miss the boat on this one.

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