Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire Recordings)
Barring a corporate sellout of epic proportions, I knew from the start that Asobi Seksu and I were going to be friends for quite a long time. After my first listen to their self-titled debut, it wasn’t hard for my discerning ears to latch onto their pop craftsmanship, buzzy shoe gazing and melancholy sublimeness.
The NYC-based quartet is led by keyboardist/vocalist Yuki Chikudate who sings heartrending lyrics in both Japanese and English that stand on broad shoulders above the band’s cascading barrage of sonically charged noise.
Any band that makes delicate pop music amidst densely murky musical backdrops runs the risk of being compared to My Bloody Valentine, Medicine, Sonic Youth or The Jesus & Mary Chain. Although these influences exist within the framework of Asobi Seksu's work, they don't neccessarily define who they are. That’s because Asobi Seksu eschew comparisons by having placing a tranquil, creamy pop center smack dab in the middle of their swirling feedback, resulting in wave after wave of richly textured, intimately warm compositions.
The album begins with the cutesy Tokyopop shimmer of “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me,” which quickly whizzes off of the rails into a manic frenzy of driving percussion and heavy distortion. Yuki’s vocals begin sweetly, evolving into something darker and much more paranoid. This is followed by the My Bloody Valentine-esque roar of “Sooner,” an intense gurgling cauldron of feedback and sugar, complete with the perfect mix of frantic mayhem and pop delicateness. A bit later comes Asobi Seksu’s finest moment, “Walk On The Moon", a song drenched with melancholy and melody and rife with just the right amount of despair to linger in your subconscious for quite some time. Shades of Sonic Youth emerge with the seriously dense muddled “Let Them Wait” before giving way to the refreshing Stereolab tinged lightness of “Taiyo” and the Pavement-like “End At The Beginning.” “Asobi Masho” is a sonic mash up complete with massive walls of thickly packed blistering musical concrete combined with Pixies-sounding vocal breaks. “Stay” is a spooky masterpiece. This duet sprawls and grows at just the right time to provide the album with some much-needed emotional depth. Yuki sounds eerily like Hope Sandoval as she counters guitarist James Hanna’s terrific guitar work and backing vocals. In fact “Stay” is so powerful that if you didn’t know better you’d swear you wear listening to the newest 4AD ‘it’ band. The concluding track, “Before We Fall”, ends things on a quieter note. Asobi Seksu wisely chose the simplest and most acoustic song on the record to provide the necessary comedown from their textured sonic overdose.
Asobi Seksu has made an audacious debut that combines the best pop sensibilities with the density of shoe gazer indie rock, mixing in heavy doses of ethereal tranquility for good measure. Yuki’s voice, never overpowering or intrusive, floats gently as the guitars and percussion wash over her vocals, cresting back and forth into a multi-coated rendezvous of textures, styles and sounds.
Asobi Seksu has the potential to be a great band. They’re based in New York; they’re pretty enough for magazines and Gap adverts and they are critical darlings. However, it's their sound that really does the trick. They have carefully tapped into the right influences to appeal to hipsters, geeks and indie rockers alike. This record is an epic, heartfelt masterpiece filled with emotional breadth.