Review Summary: An EP that’s much more successful than it should be.
Anyone familiar with Brookyln-based Asobi Seksu knows a few things. First off all, they’re awesome at writing catchy, infectious dream pop. Second, Asobi Seksu’s brand of music relies pretty heavily on electricity. The band’s cheerful anthems like “Thursday” and “Perfectly Crystal” are chock full of reverb, delay, fuzz, and synth, relying on the wide range of effects to push the music to new heights. So what happens when you take away all the precious pedals and amps" Most people would guess everything manages to fall apart pretty quickly. But, somehow the formula still works, as evidenced by Asobi Seksu’s 2009 EP, Rewolf.
Rewolf was recorded under the pressure of a time limit in the renowned Olympic Studios of Beatles, Stones, and Hendrix fame. Of course, this was before it became a cinema, although the band would’ve gotten some points from me if Rewolf was recorded in a movie theater. At its heart, the album is a simple, stripped down version of Asobi Seksu’s sound. Yuki Chikudate gives an honest and dreamy vocal delivery, minus heavy reverb from past works. It’s refreshing to hear her sing in her truest form here, and though her vocals retain the same sound as always, they provide a fresh perspective to old songs. She occasionally pipes in on piano, too, adding another element to the songs. Likewise, James Hanna remains on guitar, but sticks to soft acoustic chords for the whole album, becoming more of a background member than usual, adding vocals on some sections.
The EP covers all of Asobi Seksu’s material, from their first album to their latest during recording (Hush). “Meh No Mae”, for example, is a less impressive transition, with the original being a subdued but catchy song. This version takes away the drums and the synth, but it remains recognizable nonetheless. But, old favourite “Walk On The Moon” transfers over beautifully, no longer a My Bloody Valentine rip off with wailing synth and pained vocals, instead becoming a soulful, redesigned affair with as much emotion as the original. And, emotion is the key to the whole album. Instead of creating a dream-like atmosphere a la their electric records, Asobi Seksu craft a bare minimum, heartfelt album. You can almost take Rewolf as a reflection on previous accomplishments, looking back with a touch of nostalgia, and a lot of new ideas.
Other songs like “Familiar Light” retain their original identity, too, but ultimately most tracks become something refreshing, like “Gliss”, where Yuki’s vocals really shine. It’s a nice change to hear Asobi Seksu at their most basic. And, one of Asobi Seksu’s best tracks, “Thursday” becomes yet again an outstanding example on Rewolf. The song takes the speedy, upbeat original, and turns it into a slow, drawn out ballad using the same chords and Yuki’s voice to lead the way. Amazingly, the song is completely successful (like most of Rewolf), and manages to pick up the pace near the end while throwing in a sample alongside Yuki’s vocals. If you need proof that Asobi Seksu can do an acoustic album, “Thursday” may be their best example.
Unfortunately, Rewolf doesn’t always manage to hold your attention. Some standouts (like “Thursday” and “Walk On The Moon”) help keep the album above boredom or mediocrity, but eventually the tracks blend together a little too much. Some songs sound completely different while others are basically “unplugged”, but overall the album is quite solid. Even with the relatively short run time of 35 minutes, you can’t help but wonder if the album could’ve been trimmed down or streamlined a little bit more, even with time constraints. And, as an Asobi Seksu fan, I found myself asking why fun songs like “Asobi Masho” and “Strawberries” were absent from the recording" Certainly, more material from Citrus would’ve been a welcome addition to the EP. All being said, Rewolf is an EP that you can’t help but smile at while you listen, and on one hand is an amazing accomplishment – it’s hard to unplug a dreampop band, after all. On the other hand, the Asobi Seksu sound blends together a bit more when you take away all the effects. Nonetheless, someone looking for fun, dreamy acoustic songs for their summer should look no further, and that goes double if you already love Asobi Seksu.