Review of Asobi Seksu's album 'Hush' released through One Little Indian.
As with their risqu' moniker that some commentators upon translation would immediately link with some dreadful porn metal outfit a la Rock Bitch, Asobi Seksu are all about creating an element of surprise and delivering the unexpected. Where their last album, 2006's gorgeously crafted 'Citrus' was a continued development from their eponymous debut, and the record that propelled them into the spotlight on both sides of the Atlantic, 'Hush' takes their blueprint that one step further into more experimental regions, where layered and textured sounds aren't so much the order of the day, but they certainly go a long, long way towards enhancing both their songs' potential and the band's own ability to create the "perfect sound" their ultimate idol Brian Eno has spent the last three decades trying to master.
Certainly anyone hoping that this would be 'Citrus' mark two may find themselves disappointed; 'Hush' isn't about pop in its most pedantic form, while the band themselves openly admit to being uncomfortable with the "shoegaze revivalists" tag that seems to have followed their every move since 'Citrus' and its Cocteau-esque lead single 'Thursday' in particular opened many an ear to their previously undiscovered wares. That's not to say of course that the influence of the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive aren't lingering in the background ominously in the background here; the opening 'Layers' is a journey through several trajectories of noise that perhaps wouldn't have been an option to many bands post-1992 if it weren't for the impact of 'Loveless' while lead single 'Me And Mary' is the meeting point between 'Citrus' dream pop extravaganza and the ambiguous, discordant nature of 'Hush'.
Another point worth noting is that 'Hush' is a million miles away from the band's current live show, and with the numerous effects and levels of studio trickery to be found on the record, one can imagine this being a difficult album to replicate on any stage, even with the added bonus of Death By Audio's astounding range of pedals and gadgets which guitarist James Hanna openly admits to being engrossed with at this moment in time. Much of the credit there has to lie at the feet of producer and long-time cohort Chris Zane, who could have taken the easiest and more commercially viable option of settling for another variant on 'Citrus', but instead has risen to the challenge and taken the band to more exotic, if otherworldly locations.
Yuki Chikudate's vocals are still instantly comparable to those of Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser in that their purpose is more for the use of instrumentation rather than conveying words or stories - indeed the majority of the lyrics on 'Hush' are indecipherable. The most recent additions to the band, drummer Larry Gorman and bassist Will Pavone also add a more distinct feel to proceedings of band-as-unit rather than the mere studio project that occasionally spoilt their first record, if the tension between Chikudate, Hanna and their previous incumbents maybe increased the dynamics in a perverse way on 'Citrus'.
Unlike the last record, it would be hard to pinpoint many singles on 'Hush' or indeed a standout track in particular, but the frazzled beauty of 'Transparence' and genteel musical snowstorm of 'Gliss' should be enough to make any heart flutter and mind melt in an instant, while 'I Can't See', which sees Hanna take centre stage on lead vocals, is a finely tuned, mellow strum that could place Asobi Seksu in an unlikely head-to-head with the big balladeers of the day such as Coldplay and Snow Patrol.
Instantaneous it may not be, but stick with 'Hush' and it will grow on you like the mould on last week's Hovis. And that's a promise.