Fugu’s debut Fugu EP is a Lost in the Grooves exclusive. Click to sample the music or purchase.

Fugu Fugu EP (Semantic, 1996)

Fugu is Mehdi Zannad, a classically trained French pianist who discovered he could only compose three-minute songs. Don’t be fooled by the indie world that tries to “Hello Kitty-ize” him. However pretentious Zannad’s titles, his music could be taken seriously by the sternest scholars. This self-released EP, which predates debut full-length Fugu 1 by four years, is as despicably rare as it is charming. I was able to obtain a copy directly from Zannad after a Boston performance. His jaw-dropping postmodern Beach Boys deconstructions (complete with four-part harmonies) combined with skillful power pop spelunking led me to confront his timid frame after the set and proclaim, “you are my new favorite band!” More consistent and battier than Fugu 1, the EP is one of the least boring and most rococo recordings you are ever likely to hear. “F29” is a trip into a cavern of multi-colored rock candy stalagmites triggered by swift piano arpeggios, skronky Vox organ hits, sweeping cello melodramas and Zannad’s own incoherent trilling. Complete with sighing violins, “F4” evokes a mythological place where the Beatles are composed of two French Paul McCartneys, the Velvet Underground’s Sterling Morrison plays his ultra simplistic “non-rock” leads, and Ringo pats on the muted snare, like on Abbey Road’s “Something.” On “Untitled” and “Interlude,” a cacophony of voices and bubbling machines intermingle with gurgling horns and myriad symphonic cutting-room floor clippings before returning to Earth. “F26” pits the thrush of strummed guitars, frowning horns and cotton candy organ against Zannad’s voice on the odd-canticle chorus. While it’s possible to be swept up in the obvious magical mystery of his production, or the fractured-ness of his arranging sensibility, there is always at the core an essential song, a framework to shake you of your every sun-baked boredom with pop music. Orgiastic, steeped in utter coherence. (Jonathan Donaldson, from the book Lost in the Grooves)