They minimise their songs while infusing them with a new clarity.
Melissa Bradshaw 2009-11-19
Going back to the original of Hope Sandoval’s Suzanne, you could be forgiven for instantly surmising where the transformations that take place here began. Suzanne, which is the only cover song on this album, is suspended around the space between voice and guitar, and a glistening bell. By making this combination something of a formula, and then mastering it, Asobi Seksu complete an artistic arc from shoe- to star-gaze.
Recorded at London’s famous Olympic Studios shortly before it closed, at the behest of One Little Indian label owner Derek Birkett, this is a collection of acoustic reworks of previous Asobi Seksu material (Suzanne aside). Catalogue classics Walk on the Moon and Thursday nestle up with b sides like New Years, Breathe Into Glass and Urusai Tori. As the band pares down to their New York/Japan core of singer and keyboardist Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna, they minimise their songs while infusing them with a new clarity.
On their eponymous debut, Asobi Seksu sounded something like My Bloody Valentine dubbed with birdlike vocals. The two albums that followed saw them shape the distorted, droning riffs of shoegazing into magical pop structures. Here, the bells and guitar make Walk on the Moon sound astral, while Chikudate’s soft, aeriform vocals send her introspections into the ether. There also is folk-like simplicity to the rework of Familiar Light, until it too dematerialises, and the piano version of Blind Little Rain could be what a Neil Young song would sound like if he was very pretty and female. (There are also elements of Charlotte Gainsbourg in various songs.)
The bell is both high and glassy, making everything light in both senses, and the climax is the magnificent, purified and hymnal rework of Thursday. Soft introspections of the kind Asobi Seksu first borrowed from shoegazing are delivered to the air. The result is quite stunning.