Let’s begin with a confession that this writer has limited knowledge of shoegaze and dream-pop. Add to that the idea that Asobi Seksu was something new and unexplored upon hearing the first chimes of Fluorescence. And chime is the operative word for this album, as we shall see. Through the post-punk drone and fuzz are the distinct traces of pop music. The production may lead one to believe it is the ’90s that saturates the sound, but this writer was absorbed in the 1960s and 1980s for much of the 45 minutes of the platter. The voice of singer Yuki Chikudate is somewhere between the pixie-ish sounds of Diana Ross and Dale Bozzio. Other reviews of the album marked it as an “acquired taste,” though it’s certainly pleasant enough, if not particularly emotive; light and airy, not hearty and heavy like Florence Welch, for example.
The drums are heavy throughout the album, providing a driving, and quite danceable, foundation for the guitar, whether it is are chugging distortion or chiming lead or psychedelic croon. Add to this keys that will bounce from skate rink organ on one song (“In My Head”) to ’80s synth strings (“Counterglow”) to post-punk drone (“Trails”). And all the tunes are bathed in enough reverb to make Phil Spector jealous. And speaking of Mr. Spector, his disciple Brian Wilson can be heard in the arrangements of many of the songs, primarily during instrumental breakdowns and harmonies, and most notably on “Perfectly Crystal” and “Leave the Drummer Out There.”
There are a few jarring moments, as when guitarist James Hanna takes the lead on “Counterglow” with his flat vocals over drum machine and trip-hop synth. But even these moments have some charm to them. Even filler like the instrumental “Deep Weird Sleep” and the sameness of the middle of the record don’t detract from the pleasant experience.
And that’s exactly what this album is overall: nothing more, nor nothing less than pleasant. That’s not to say there aren’t some outstanding tracks on the album (“Coming Up” and “My Baby” are terrific), but there’s nothing that says ‘instant classic’ anywhere on here. That being said, it’s certainly nothing to be dismissed. Everyone needs a pleasant distraction from time to time.
The Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love
Missing Persons – Spring Session M
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Trails”