Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence (2011): On Second Thought

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The recent news that Asobi Seksu is going on hiatus brought me back to this project, and the period in which former My Bloody Valentine and shoegaze acolytes ditched the guitars for cool shimmering pop. That seemed to happen around 2009’s Hush, and the narrative was that Asobi Seksu was still dwelling in the ice palace two years later.

In reality, guitarist James Hanna and singer/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate had not strayed far from the layered sound that scored them the indie hit “Thursday” back in 2006. The textural guitars were still there on Fluorescence, though they took a back seat to keyboards, percussion and, on the lead track “Coming Up,” sleigh bells.

There’s little sense of the “playful sex” suggested by the band’s name, but plenty of the flickering cool glow you’d expect from the album’s title. The grinding guitars of old pop up on “Perfectly Crystal’s” insanely catchy chorus, while “Sighs” is the long lost love child of Cocteau Twins and Head on the Door-era Cure. Just when the album threatens to get swamped in glistening washes of sound, the uplifting pop rocker “Trance Out” rescues it from oblivion.

Chikudate’s vocals frequently get lost amid the gorgeous fizziness, which is a shame. She ranges from full throated Debbie Harry to high-end Liz Fraser, but mostly Chikudate recalls the odd gentility of freak folk goddess Judy Dybyl. Along the way, Fluorescence becomes the aural equivalent of vanilla yogurt — cool and smooth with an underlying tartness.

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Patrick Moran

Patrick Moran

Chicago native Pat Moran is a filmmaker who has produced and written five feature films, and served as producer and editor for Western Classics, a film series hosted by actor James Best. He also writes about music for Creative Loafing Charlotte. The best job title he ever had was "part-time vampire." Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Patrick Moran
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