Review Summary: Fans of the shoegazer elements heard on Citrus may be disappointed with Asobi Seksu's new direction, but Hush is a worthwhile album all the same.
No matter what the final product may have been, the moment Asobi Seksu began writing the follow up to the highly praised Citrus
it became inevitable that there would be some sort of fan backlash. And this shouldn't surprise anybody; there are innumerable examples of bands or artists who have, for better or for worse, changed their sound only to be bombarded with criticism on the unveiling of new material. The reverb heavy shoegaze heard on Citrus
won over many a fan back in 2006, and for very good reason. Though the band did take a page out of early 90s shoegaze bands, they turned around and added their own unique flair to the record, which prevented them from sounding too much like your typical, shoegazing revivalists.
Of course, 'shoegaze revivalists' was exactly what Asobi Seksu was tagged as following the fanfare surrounding Citrus
. Perhaps at odds with such a label, Hush
sees Asobi Seksu mellow out their sound dramatically. Indeed, the quartet's third album has a lot more in common with Cocteau Twins than the likes of My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive. What shoegaze or noise pop stylings that could once be considered staples in the band's sound are now gone; only the album's penultimate track and first single "Me and Mary" features even a lick of heavy distortion, and even then, it has more of a subtle effect on the actual mix than the band's sound itself.
treats listeners to a shimmering slab of dream-pop. Admittedly, the overall structure of Asobi Seksu's song writing hasn't changed quite as much as its sound. The aptly titled opening track "Layers" demonstrates exactly this; the music, delicate sounding though it may be, integrates multiple tracks of instrumentation which offer a denser, yet still airy feel. The end result of this isn't noisy or muddled, yet at the same time, to call Hush
clear or overproduced would be inaccurate. In actuality, Asobi Seksu compromises between the two extremes, offering listeners a deceptively crisp production that still incorporates a lush, multilayered sound. Indeed, the aforementioned "Layers" follows this formula to a tee; one can discern the glistening guitar work under the somewhat timid drumming, and the heavy presence of keyboards and synthesizer. Vocalist Yuki Chikudate's breathy singing style accentuates the instrumental layers extremely well, sometimes even acting as a fourth fifth instrument rather than the band's mouth piece. She flip-flops between Japanese and English lyrics every so often, though such a fact might as well be meaningless given that her lyrics are often rendered indecipherable due to the nature of the mix.
Apart from Chikudate's transcendent vocal efforts, Hush
is hardly makes for a truly breathtaking experience. But be that as it may, the band's third album remains a relaxing listen all the same. Despite the multilayered format, the majority of Asobi Seksu's compositions keep to simple pop formulas as opposed to the complexity of their more experimental contemporaries. The blissful, vibrant textures that manifest themselves through each track are absolutely stunning, particularly during the likes of "Gliss" and "Glacially". The nearly immaculate "Me and Mary" is the album's crowning moment, as it combines the dreamy shoegaze roots of old with the band's newfound pop flair nurtured throughout the album. "Transparence" follows closely behind, though this time favouring Chikudate's singing over the buzz of James Henna's reverb soaked guitar riffs.
Fans of the shoegazer elements heard on Citrus
will probably be disappointed with Asobi Seksu's dream pop aspirations, but to write it off based on such would be a mistake. Hush makes an excellent foray into dream pop without sounding dated or contrived. In essence, listening to Hush
could be akin to being dropped off in some wintery place, only beautiful and vibrant rather than bitterly cold and wet. Whether or not Hush
will depend on the listener, but it hardly matters in the end; Hush
not only breaks down new barriers for the band, but more importantly, is just a pleasure to listen to. Besides, how could you say no to a band named after a Japanese colloquial referring casual sex?