Plumbiferous Media

Hush - Asobi Seksu

Feb 19th 2009
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Hush - Asobi SeksuAsobi Seksu
Score: 36

Aso­bi Sek­su (which trans­lates to “casu­al sex”) is the duo mem­bered by Yuki Chiku­date and James Han­na. They are assist­ed by William Pavone on bass, and Lar­ry Gor­man on drums, although in the case of their newest album, Hush, ‘assist­ed’ is real­ly an antonym of the more applic­a­ble word. And not even their new­found part­ner­ship with Polyvinyl even had a chance of sav­ing this album.

Hush is not a strong album. The clear­est indi­ca­tor of this is the influ­ence of Lar­ry Gor­man, who must have some­how con­vinced Chiku­date and Han­na that he deserved full con­trol over what the drums would sound like on the album. He did­n’t. Every sin­gle track attempts to cre­ate an amor­phous wave of sound, and in every sin­gle track this wave is punc­tured repeat­ed­ly by Gor­man’s over-agres­sive (an under­state­ment) drum­ming, most notably with his tom-toms. The only track in which the drums came close to being a pos­i­tive influ­ence on the album was “Me & Mary;” not because Gor­man final­ly let up a bit, but because every­one else grew to match the drums.

But then, to say that the drums ruined the album would­n’t be entire­ly cor­rect either, although Gor­man cer­tain­ly tried. No, there are many oth­er prob­lems with the album. While “Me & Mary,” and “Blind Lit­tle Rain” were cer­tain­ly new mate­r­i­al, most of the tracks were so incred­i­bly sim­i­lar to one anoth­er that in order to have some dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic, some tracks seemed to com­pete to see which could have the worst end­ing. The win­ner? The minute-long end­ing from “In the Sky” that was both nau­se­at­ing and painful.

For all of its prob­lems, though, Hush is still, at the very least, an intrigu­ing exam­ple of the shoegaze genre it takes so many cues from. Though Aso­bi Sek­su has used the com­bi­na­tion of dense, effect-laden instru­men­tals over thick lay­ers of sound to much bet­ter effect on their ear­li­er albums (most notably their last album, Cit­rus), Hush is still rem­i­nis­cent of the dynam­ic sound of those works. The col­or­ful sound of the album is refresh­ing, if over-sharp, though this does cer­tain­ly give Hush a dis­tinc­tive sound.

Though the con­stant pound­ing base­line detracts from Chiku­date’s del­i­cate vocals, the vocals do occa­sion­al­ly poke through the most­ly impen­e­tra­ble depths of noise. When they do and the base­line’s stran­gle­hold on the music is tem­porar­i­ly dis­posed of, Hush tri­umphs. “Famil­iar Light” is the best exam­ple of this - but even there the base­line even­tu­al­ly emerges vic­to­ri­ous. On two oth­er occa­sions, a com­pro­mise is reached between the two ele­ments, and, though the tracks could cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit from a greater show­ing on the part of the vocals, it is not by coin­ci­dence that “Trans­parence” and “Me & Mary” are two of Hush’s best tracks.

The lyrics of Hush alter­nate between heart­felt sto­ries told in Eng­lish and Japan­ese, made ethe­re­al by Chiku­date’s vocals. Though this com­bi­na­tion makes for the deep sort of lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence no doubt sought after by Aso­bi Sek­su, it is inevitably crushed by the impend­ing base­line which so unfor­tu­nate­ly defines the album.

Though the myr­i­ad ail­ments from which Hush suf­fers could seem to be attrib­ut­able to Hush’s shoegaze influ­ence, that’s no excuse among a genre of bet­ter music, espe­cial­ly when it comes at the expense of the music itself. On Hush it cer­tain­ly does, as the best ele­ments of the album, includ­ing the vocals, are swal­lowed up into this mess of sound. Hush is not a good album - and it’s so much more of a pity with its occa­sion­al quality.

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