Asobi Seksu, Fluorescence

Asobi Seksu, Fluorescence

Honestly, Asobi Seksu’s Fluorescence hits so many damn touchstones — and seemingly throws in more with every subsequent listen — that I feel like I can barely keep hold of it. Right when I think I’ve got James Hanna and Yuki Chikudate pegged, they step forward, smiling beatifically, and hand me something else, some other new facet of their sound.

Taken as a whole, Fluorescence pulls in influences from every kind of dreampop-y, shoegaze-y, Brit-pop-y band or musician you can name, to the point where you can go, “there’s some M83 over there, and there’s some Kate Bush, and hey, is that some Trembling Blue Stars peeking out from behind the drapes?” By the album’s end, I feel like I’ve witnessed a wide-ranging history of the entire dreampop movement, with the band attempting to point to all those bands they loved as kids and wanted to emulate.

All of which would probably not be more than decent, to be sure, in the hands of some other band. To Asobi Seksu’s credit, however, they make it work; holy-hell-yes, do they make it work. They grab hold of all those influences and own them, stitching them carefully together into one seamless crazy-quilt of woozy, shoegazer-y bliss that has me nodding sleepily in awe.

Opening track “Coming Up” seems to set the stage, beginning with a wash of shimmery, distant sound that abruptly gets shoved aside by Hanna’s rock-solid drumming and Chikudate’s meaty, fuzzy-edged synths and angelic vocals. Then there’s “Trails,” which makes me think, oddly, of mr. Gnome’s Nicole Barrila in that (decidedly non-shoegaze) band’s quieter, more meditative moments, or maybe of Karen O’s more melodic, mellow turns with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“My Baby” takes things down a bit, shifting into a sweet, weirdly tinkly tune that calls to mind classic girl-group pop as much as it does Slowdive. The song actually makes me think of the Phil Spector-gone-indie-pop beauty of early Magnetic Fields more than anything else, although I’m struck at the same time with a very cool resemblance to The Wild Moccasins.

The highlight for me comes early, with “Perfectly Crystal” — it’s gorgeous and lush, with a recurring guitar motif that’s languid and surprisingly countryish, sounding (to me, at least) for all the world like the main melody of The Sleepy Jackson’s “Good Dancers.” And wow, is that an awesome song. It points to ’80s synth-pop, Elastica-like ’90s Britpop, and swirling, roaring dreampop, all in just under four minutes, and I love, love, love the thundering drums, the sky-high, almost instrument-like vocals, and the unapologetic tidal wave of guitar noise.

Hanna and Chikudate briefly quiet down a little after that, with the delicately meandering “In My Head,” where Chikudate seriously channels some Kate Bush/Goldfrapp fragility with her voice, but then there’s “Sighs,” with some nicely My Bloody Valentine-esque guitars and an addictive, danceable beat. When the track collapses into a squall of messy, almost Bob Mould-like guitars, I very nearly want to weep (and then run home to pull out all my Hüsker Dü albums).

There’s a cool resemblance to The Raveonettes at a few points here, too, particularly in “Trance Out,” where Asobi Seksu hammer the melody to the floor and keep it there so Chikudate can sweetly sing lyrics in Japanese at it ’til it quits struggling. And then the whole thing’s over with “Pink Light,” sweeping up and out majestically into the dawn sky. And I’m still sitting here, just smiling and staring off into the distance. Whoa.

[Asobi Seksu is playing 5/25/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with White Lies.]
(Polyvinyl Record Co. -- 206 N. Randolph St., Suite M100, Champaign, IL. 61820;; Asobi Seksu --; Asobi Seksu (Myspace) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, May 25th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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