When Asobi Seksu released its self-titled debut in 2004, the New York City band (whose name means "casual sex" in Japanese) was on the cusp of the Britpop-influenced shoegaze resurgence. But while tinges of that echo-laden, effects-driven aesthetic have found their way into the mainstream over the past half-decade, the band has largely remained an underground ambassador of that sound.
Still, Asobi Seksu has progressed and evolved over the course of three albums without straying too far from its core strengths: vocalist/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate's swooning falsetto melodies and James Hanna's otherworldly guitar-scapes. The pair first joined forces in the early '00s after becoming disillusioned with their classical studies at the Manhattan School of Music—and it's not too much of a stretch to think that a similar dislike of rehashing sonic templates and traditional constructs also marks this year's Hush.
Recorded in a few months (as opposed to the frantic pace of the sessions for 2006's Citrus), the album is mostly about establishing an overall, slow-building mood. By relying on one or two tastefully crafted parts for impact—and abandoning the dense layers of guitar noise found on past songs such as "New Years" and "Red Sea"—Chikudate's trance-inducing vocals shine through like never before.
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In fact, despite plenty of shimmering guitar effects, layers of floating synths and lofting percussion flourishes, the album could be considered a somewhat minimalist effort—at least when compared with Citrus' juxtaposition of manic noise-pop and blasts of reverb. If Citrus is a band playing to a packed, sweaty crowd of Brooklyn youth, Hush is more like the house band from a David Lynch movie: It exists in a slightly out-of-focus daze that perfectly enhances the eerie, melancholy state of emotion in the room.