Review of Fluorescence Album by Asobi Seksu

As one of the longest serving incumbents of Brooklyn's ever-creative Asobi Seksu, they could be described as veterans were it not for the youthful charm and elegant grace their music exudes. Oh, and the fact that elfin singer Yuki Chikudate would probably throw an almighty tantrum at such a salient accusation might have a bearing on such a way with words too.

Asobi Seksu Fluorescence Album

However, over the decade their recording career has spanned, the core duo of Asobi Seksu - Chikudate and fellow arranger-cum-guitarist James Hanna - they've reasserted their names on the dreampop template with every passing album. If 2004's self-titled debut boasted the sound of a band steadily finding their feet (and genre), its successor, 2006's 'Citrus' was undoubtedly the catalyst towards an infinite stream of superlatives and genuine worldwide interest, not to mention citations galore as prominent figures in the post-millennium re-development of shoegaze.

Now on their fourth album, 'Fluorescence' follows a similar path to all of its predecessors, most recent long player 'Hush' being its closest compatriot, while standing proud as possibly their most direct pop record to date. While still smattered with a hefty dose of pedal-induced atmospherics, there's a distinctively crisp sheen engulfing the majority of its twelve songs that lifts this out of any ballparks suffixed by the words 'gaze' or 'ethereal'.

Once again calling on the production talents of Chris Zane, the New York based studio boffin has performed a similar task here as he did last year with The Walkmen's 'Lisbon', transforming the rougher edges of a band straddling between a rock and a hard place into a radio-friendly outfit of potentially unit shifting quality.

It's also worth mentioning the role of current rhythm section Billy Pavone and Larry Gorman, now permanent members rather than just hired tour hands. Gorman in particular drives the bulk of 'Fluorescence' from behind the confines of his drumkit, the opening percussion heavy 'Coming Up', progressively building 'In My Head' and echo-drenched lullaby 'Leave The Drummer Out There' highlighting his talents to the maximum.

Chikudate's vocal takes centre stage for the most part though, the delicate 'Perfectly Crystal' harnessing a more fancy-free trajectory ('Angels sighs surround me') over the bilingually optimistic constraints of 'Trance Out'. Hanna also takes the lead here on some of 'Fluorescence's key moments, not least on the beat-laden psychedelia of 'Counterglow' and pulsating electronica of 'Sighs', where Chikudate joins him for a lushly cooed chorus that would make a sugarcube crumble incessantly.

Indeed there isn't much here that's overly reminiscent of their past, from an arrangement point of view at any rate. Lead single 'Trails' swoons like a Liz Fraser monologue, while closer 'Pink Light', a former live favourite and oldest song here, fuses melancholia with an atmospheric flourish ending the record on a high note even if a tinge of sadness hovers menacingly in the ether.

While not completely rewriting the rulebook, 'Fluorescence' shows a more fluent side to Asobi Seksu's make-up than previous works suggested. What instalment number five will bring is anyone's guess, but with mission number four safely accomplished, zenith is still within reach.


Dom Gourlay

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