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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