Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Album Review - Asobi Seksu: Citrus

Bilingual Brooklyn-based band forego shoegazing in favour of giddy pop psychedelia

If your knowledge of Japanese stretches no further than sushi and sudoku, here’s a new one: asobi seksu, Japanese for ‘playful sex’. Asobi Seksu is also a Brooklyn three-piece whose pretty package of heavily textured bilingual pop has been making its way around the UK tour circuit this last month. Though still relatively unknown, sophomore release ‘Citrus’ is a convincing introduction for newcomers to their psychedelic breed of shoegaze. It showcases melodic direction and newfound pop sensibilities whilst retaining a trademark white-noise euphoria, caught in orbit around Yuki Chikudate’s beguiling, breathless vocals.

Citrus is spattered with enough dizzying distortion and squalling tremolo bar manipulation to relegate it to the been-done basket beside noisy nineties albums from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, but meticulous production saves it from this fate. The fuzz of feedback and amorphous distorted guitars no longer saturate and overwhelm, instead being employed to create waves of texture and detail that push through each track.

Contrary to the tumultuous walled sound of early shoegaze that suffocated subdued vocals, Asobi Seksu keep steady focus on the winding melodies of Yuki’s piercing siren-singing. Guitars and synth drop out and pick up as appropriate around catchy if completely unintelligible refrains, often sung in Japanese.

The bubble-gum cloy of ‘Goodbye’ is pop-sensible to the point of mundane, and ‘Strings’ seems to wander aimlessly on the precarious fringes of Yuki’s vocal range, but these are mediocre exceptions. Collectively, the measured, magnificent exhilaration of the album is exemplified in ‘Thursday’, where an incessant hi-hat propels James Hanna’s mingled guitar riffs forward under the catchiest of Yuki’s melodies. A coursing bass lead and the gradually intensifying splashes of cymbals build texture through each refrain before crashing into a synth-led finale that intertwines elements to the point of ubiquity. This is what pop should sound like: propulsive, carefully pieced together pandemonium that entices and encompasses in equal measure.

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