Friendly Fire Recordings, 2006
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/07/2011
How could a band named Asobi Seksu (roughly translated from Japanese to English as “playful sex”) not have a sense of jauntiness? Asobi Seksu doesn’t have the kind of smugness that one would expect in a shoegazer/dream-pop band of their kind. There are unmistakable traces of Lush and My Bloody valentine on the Asobi Seksu’s breakthrough sophomore effort Citrus, but with an energy and lightheartedness, which takes the stuffiness out of the band’s particular style of music.
Hand it to frontwoman Yuki Chikudate, whose flirtatious vocals add whimsy and pep, and also angelic harmoniousness when called for, in the band’s sonically charged lush songs. Chikudate’s sprightly vocals are infectious, which makes even her Japanese-sung songs temptingly singable, also to someone with no knowledge of the language. On “Mizu Asobi” and “Nefi & Girly,” the combination of the frolicksome music and Chikudate’s vocals results in high-energy punk-pop, the likes of Shonen Knife. But on “Thursday” and “Strings,” the blissful guitars meet the same lively vocals and create an aural transport that is haunting.
Being from New York, Asobi Seksu has distinctly artsy and very “New York” indie elements that it incorporates from time to time in their music, which adds a new dynamic to their dream pop sound. Oftentimes the band tends to veer off course into psychedelic guitar interludes in a Sonic Youth-like move, but only not as eccentric. On the four minute “Exotic Animal Paradise,” the last minute and a half is submerged in a sonic deluge of guitars that turns the song upside down. Even moreso, on the eight minute “Red Sea,” the last three and a half minutes is nothing but a thick wall of guitar surrealism.
Not just Asobi Seksu, but the whole shoegazer/dream-pop scene (or the resurgence thereof) is brought to a new light on Citrus. Without the glum moodiness of this scene, Asobi Seksu creates deep guitar landscapes with evocative melodies on this record. Citrus is as definitive an album as the classics of this genre.