Fingathing :: Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band :: Grand Central/Ninja Tune
as reviewed by Matt Jost

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

(Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")

There is yet another theory which states that if you take two creative lads from Manchester, England, like say one a double bass player, the other one a DJ, their mind-boggling music will attract alien lifeforms across thousands of light years to join a jam session so spine-tingling and body-moving some million years later the Andromeda Observer headlines will read: 'Best of All Worlds: Milky Way Hosts Intergalactic Beatathon - Orion Nebula Rock Band The Alienators Destroy Yet Another Hotel Room!'

This is the third time double bassist Sneaky and DJ Peter Parker morph into Fingathing, a double-headed, four-handed, carbon-based entity inhabiting the parallel universe that we call music. After composing soundtracks to other nerdy passions of theirs such as wrestling (2000's "The Main Event") or comics (2002's "Superhero Music"), Fingathing are back to conquer the final frontier. Masquerading as a concept album, "Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band" is, first and foremost, an instrumental album. With much of the content that makes up the bugged out concept being related visually, a project like this is begging for multimedia support that extends beyond a cool website ( Supposedly, Fingathing are a great live act, but for their music to come alive on record, and with that much care already invested in graphics (courtesy of Chris Drury), the ultimate Fingathing experience might be something in the vein of DJ Q-Bert's animated movie "Wave Twisters."

For now, we have to content ourselves with the music, the cover artwork and the website. If your imagination is alive and kicking, you might be able to see before your inner mind's eye the 'joyriding space scalleys in pods smashing about and generally being a nuisance' and the 'dying planet inhabited by grubs that are being eaten by giant ducks' the press release mentions, but even if you can't take instrumental music for more than what it is, "Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band" works perfectly. Categories such as big beat, downtempo or breakbeat are not particularly helpful here, as Fingathing have come up with their very own formula of space age funk. Leaving behind the confines of simple scratching over self-produced beats, they create a world of carefully programmed drums, quirky basslines and a myriad of processed noises. It actually takes little imaginative power to spot the alien grunts, cosmic storms, laser beams and mechanical roars this album is made of.

But during it all, it retains a surprising catchiness. Neither minimalist nor epic, Fingathing's music is almost tangible, its components compressed into a cohesive structure, where certain details alternatingly take center stage, yet the track always returns to itself. On decks, 1997 DMC UK finalist Peter Parker blends in to a degree that the cutting and scratching becomes part of the violently beautiful soundscape, sometimes putting his scratches through some effect generator, other times meticulously manipulating instrumental parts. Meanwhile, Sneaky's double bass grounds the sound with deep strings.

Call it adventures on the wheels of steel and a double bass. Some chapters you'll be more attracted to than others. While I found myself fast-forwarding the few tracks that strain the frequency range with everything from piercing bleeps to deep ends ("BOLUS"), some of the stuff on here is just too good to be true for someone like me who doesn't normally venture into these parts. Even if "Fingathing and the Big Red Nebula Band" dwells on the outer limits of hip-hop, it still tries to keep in touch. On "Big Bang", Schoolly D meets chamber music, while "SYNERGY" chops up old school electro. But every influence is made a subordinate to the highly sophisticated Fingathing sound. There's the slinky funk of "ReAnimo," the space boogie of "Rock the Whole Planet," the jazzy mysteriousness of "LAVA", the generous guitars and symphonic scratching of "Themes From the Big Red," the gear-shifting-rock of "Cluster Buster," the airy ascension of "LADY Nebula," all resulting, if witnessed from beginning to end, in a truly thematic piece of music.

The North American edition distributed by Ninja Tune comes with a retrospective of older tracks on a seperate disc.

A news report brought to you here on the Sub-Etha waveband, broadcasting around the galaxy, around the clock. We'll be saying a big hello to all intelligent lifeforms everywhere, and to everyone else out there, the secret is to bang the rocks together, guys!

(Douglas Adams, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy")

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Scratch Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: November 16, 2004