Friday, 10 April 2009

REVIEW: Asobi Seksu - Hush

Another disc that I've been allowing some time to settle since it's mid Feb release is this newie from NYC's own Asobi Seksu. I'm glad that I took the extended listening period, because this would likely have been quite a different review 2 months ago.

Hyperbole generally comes in two forms for me, that bestowed by all and sundry or that built up in my own head. I have an effective control facility on the former.....I become additionally sceptical.....but the latter is a more insidious beast. It develops subconciously, in small but undeniable steps, eventually leading one to forget a time they felt anything otherwise. Such was the case leading up to the release of 'Hush', which could only follow in the footsteps of the unspeakably luscious, upbeat 'Citrus' and a powerfully noisy 2007 live set in Manchester's intimate Night & Day Cafe. Right? Wrong.

'Hush' is its own creation and stands distinctly so, particularly in direct comparison to its predecessor. Largely absent are the immediate, sunshine-tinged pop tones of Goodbye and Strawberries, replaced by icily distant numbers like Familiar Light and Mehnomae. The joyous, carefree feel of the 'Citrus' summer gives way to the introspective and vulnerable winter present on this album. Hell, even the artwork has moved from multi-layered oranges and yellows to a minimalist and stark white, for the most part. This is not a band in the same mood or one content to retrace the steps of what was a perfectly effective formula.

So initially this album is something of a come down. When you're expecting glorious rays of light and wake up to an overcast, foreboding skyline, you're not going to be best pleased. Yet often cracks in the clouds will appear, revealing a brighter side to the day, at which point you'll appreciate them all the more in the context of the grey from whence they sprang. And on songs like the aforementioned Familiar Light, Gliss, and single Me & Mary, such breaks do make an appearance. Often it's in the form of Yuki's whisper-light vocal, which has the disconcerting ability to snap from airy and hopeful to eerily distant with a miniscule change in pitch. Elsewhere it's simply a picked up tempo and a less contemplative feel (Me & Mary), which is about as close as we get to anything on 'Citrus', in spite of containing the lyrical couplet "Dry my eyes on the summer sky, say goodbye to the happy times".

It would also be churlish to ignore the beauty in the distance that the album maintains. Although I'm definitely remaining on the side of Asobi's brighter disposition when I return to listen, there's something perfectly fitting about Yuki's ethereal singing expressing the fragility found in the music on this album. It's a testament to the band, in many ways, that they can create such differing albums and still come out with works that grow over time and don't feel unnaturally forced. Certainly, it takes a much longer time for the songs on
'Hush' to become regulars on playlists, but on the album they call home they make perfect sense as a whole listen. And, as we all know of course, all the best listens like to reveal themselves slowly, piece by piece, rather than in one glowing exposure.

So if you have any preconceptions about what
'Hush' should have been, it's probably best to go away, flush them from your mind, then come back tabula rasa. After that, the album's beauty should be evident. If not, with the summer months fast approaching then it might be best to put the album in a drawer and wait until about October. By the time the next winter freeze sets in, this is definitely an album that will make the transition into ice and snow a much improved experience.

Official Site

MP3's removed at request of artist representative/Blogger - Asobi Seksu Free MP3's (link to site only)

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