Menu | Rating System | Guest Book | Archived Reviews:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z




Asobi Seksu



Release Date:


Reviewed by:

EvilSponge has been following Asobi Seksu for six and a half years at this point. Fluorescence is their fourth full-length release, and it might well be their best to date. Fluorescence takes the pop shoegaze of Citrus and blends it with the unorthodox production and song structures of Hush to create a wonderful pop album full of catchy tunes built on layers of distortion. This is a fast paced album that sounds playful, like James Hanna and Yuki Chikudate were just having fun in the studio. Well, good for them. The playfulness comes across well, and makes this an enjoyable, fun record.

If you are familiar with the band, there are a few differences here to note. First off, James Hanna sings a lot more than he has in the past, often just in the background, adding a layer of male voice to Chikudate's singing. In fact, i think that we hear his voice more on this record than we have on all previous Asobi Seksu records combined! I suppose that in the past Mr. Hanna has just been the guitarist, and content to let Chikudate sing. In addition to him singing more, we seem to have more songs with lead keyboard melodies. Keyboards have always been present in Asobi Seksu's work, but i find them more noticeable here than on previous records. Chikudate is playing more while letting Hanna sing, i suppose.

The record starts off with Coming Up, a tune of frenetic drumming with male and female vocals. There is some great keyboard riffing towards the end, Chikudate just going crazy. The general fast pace of the song is carried through on Trails, where Chikudate sings in English, using the deeper registers of her voice. I love the guitarwork here, Hanna channeling My Bloody Valentine yet managing to make it poppy.

On My Baby, Asobi Seksu channel the spirit of the 1980s with a tinkling keyboard riff seemingly on loan from some old Thompson Twins song. Hanna's guitar is heavily echoed, and the song builds slowly with layers of backing vocals, ending with a frenzy of guitar noise. The 1980s vibe carries through on Perfectly Crystal, again in the keyboards, here reminding me of Prince and the Revolution. This song builds to a really great groove, with Hanna's guitar whining and the drums just going crazy.

In My Head features a trilling organ riff that just rolls along for a while, before being joined by guitar and drums. This is really catchy, with a steady yet unhurried pace and Hanna playing lightly. Leave the Drummer Out There is also insanely catchy, here with Hanna's guitar buried under tremolo and Chikudate's voice echoed. This song goes through a few interesting transitions. The first, at about the three minute mark, occurs as the guitar mellows, the keys tinkle like a harpsichord, and the drumming slows down. In this part, Chikudate sings achingly as the guitar soars. And then the song changes again, the drumbeat speeding up into a steady martial hit, while the guitar and voice hurry to keep up with it, hurtling forward. This is fascinating, and well done.

On Sighs, Asobi Seksu filter pure pop through their shoegaze. This song has backing vocals, a happy little keyboard melody, and chugging layers of guitar. It is The Psychedelic Furs, My Bloody Valentine, and The Pipettes all blended together. Why is this not a chart topping hit?

The next track is a short instrumental interlude called Deep Weird Sleep. It is a keyboard riff buried under dublike echo. Short, but not bad. Counterglow features Hanna on lead vocals. It gets really funky, with deep bass riffing that reminds me of Kitchens of Distinction, only with more echo. Chikudate goes crazy on the keys, channeling some cheesy 1970s idea of space rock. Really fun. Ocean continues the deep bass riffing. On Trance Out Chikudate sings in Japanese while Hanna grinds away, really channeling his inner garage rocker. The drums build to a real frenzy here, as the band go all out.

And finally things end with Pink Light, a delicate song that fades out the album, Chikudate and Hanna singing together, while Chikudate's keyboard really soars. A lovely way to end the record.

I think that this record is Asobi Seksu done right, the band firing on all cylinders and really doing what they do best.

One interesting thing to note is that the cover art for this record (which is really nice on the gatefold vinyl release i bought from the label) was designed by Vaughn Oliver, who used to be involved with design studio 23 Envelope. They are the people who did the design on all those old 4AD records that i love so much, including much of the iconic Cocteau Twins art. (Mr. Oliver even did the art for CT's final release, 1999's BBC Sessions compilation.)

Related Links:

Asobi Seksu:
   Also on EvilSponge:
      Concert: Mon.8.Nov.04
      Album: Asobi Seksu
      Concert:  Mon.14.Feb.05
      Festival Performance: South by SouthWest 2005 - Day 1
      Concert: Thu.19.Oct.06
      7": Stay Awake b/w Then He Kissed Me
      7": Me and Mary b/w Breathe Into Glass
      Album: Hush
      Album: Acoustic at Olympic Studios
      Concert: Thu.24.Sep.09
      Concert: Sat.21.May.11
Vaughn Oliver:


Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Album Review menu.