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Asobi Seksu Me & Mary [single] Hush [album]

Asobi Seksu: HushAsobi Seksu is back in the lime-
  light with an electrifying album
  carrying twelve creditable tracks
  to get under your skin — Hush
  is absolutely delightful

YUKI CHIKUDATE'S EXCEPTIONAL VOCALS and keyboard skills sit beautifully with James Hanna's fine voice and dexterous guitar work never more so than with Asobi Seksu's terrific new album Hush.

Contrary to the narcotic nature of James and Yuki's music, we are told, the duo avoids chemicals during the song-writing process. Apart, that is, from the one exception to this rule: a mind-expanding mushroom experience in Martha's Vineyard earlier this year.

"It was gorgeous breezy, with nothing but pink skies," recalls Yuki. Throughout the day a stirring melody meandered its way in and out of James' head, until he was finally able to store it away for good. This dew-draped motif weaves its way through the vastly moving, emotional and sweet Blind Little Rain until a minute of silence kicks in, effectively drawing the Asobi Seksu's third LP Hush to a close, amid clusters of ambient Eno effects.

The band's creative core explored music at an early age. Yuki was playing child prodigy recitals at 8 and James bounced between sludgy hardcore and Mogwai-schooled post-rock in his teens, but their potential career wasn't put into perspective until a stint at the Manhattan School of Music. Rather than work out what they wanted to do, they came to a decision about what they didn't want to do.

James, a classically-trained guitarist, recalls: "It was good to have something musical to do all day, since most of my bands were like, 'Yeah, maybe we'll practice on Saturday or something'. Playing someone else's music all the time seemed robotic after a while, though."

"It was a miracle I graduated at all," adds Yuki. "I love playing the piano, but three hours of it breaking it down, measure by measure, note by note makes my mind go numb."

Soon after graduation James started tackling starry-eyed pop tunes for the first time, with Yuki falling into the frontwoman position. The problem was trying to be an actual band, as in a fully-functioning quartet that tours and records together. Asobi Seksu 1.0 lasted between 2004's self-titled learn-as-we-go-along debut and the Spring of 2005. Hanna and James gave it a go with another bassist and drummer for their critically-acclaimed breakthrough 2006's Citrus LP but it didn't take long to realise that line-up was doomed as well.

Which leads us to the frustration that fuelled the making of Hush. As Hanna admits, Asobi Seksu "was starting to get somewhere" post-Citrus, but they couldn't ride a cresting wave of hype after a debilitating cycle of touring and personnel changes.

"Hush was written while we felt destroyed" explains Hanna, quite simply. Which is funny, because the entire record has a Phoenix rising vibe to it a clear sense of shimmering chords and spiral staircase melodies that are occasionally blurred by bits of guitar violence and sputtering drums check out the firework finale climax of the fabulous Me & Mary and the lift-off portions of Sing Tomorrow's Praise and Glacially, that, with its magical quality, is pretty and tuneful.

"We knew we didn't want to do 7,000 reverb guitars this time," says James. "So we stripped the sound down and built it back up from there." The results are stunning.

Another thing Asobi Seksu's avoided is sheer shoegaze pop revivalism. While they'll admit to an affinity for that realm of into-the-ether-music, Yuki and James are too obsessed with the possibilities of sound to explore a single well-trodden path.

"Every shoegaze song is the same rhythmically," explains James, adding that he'd be terribly bored if he followed that template. "Their parts don't propel into other parts," adds Yuki. "Us, we meander a little more; so it's not just one big wall of noise."

Wall of noise? The light and controlled opening track Layers, for one, is downright gorgeous, suggesting an afternoon spent in a gently-shaken snow globe. That's what happens when you learn how to use space and dynamics to your advantage, skirting what some might refer to as 'Kevin Shields Syndrome'.

"I've realized that while something might sound awesome in my head," explains James, "adding fifty layers to it might make it sound like s**t because you lose a lot of the details. Some parts have only one guitar this time. At this stage he pauses and adds, with a smile: "We agonized over that guitar, though."

While Hush treads the path of rare musical quality, the individual tracks are all of some merit, including Familiar Light, which has a more traditional Pop sound and is charmingly evocative. Sing Tomorrow's Praise is also a great track whereas Transparence is a moving, toe-tapping number with distinctive vocals and Risky And Pretty does it so well, with undulating rhythms that mesmerise.

The beautiful voice of Yuki Chikudate soars free on Asobi Seksu's electrifying album Hush; a gentle, musically-adventurous album with emotive highlights. Asobi Seksu took time out in February for a ten-venue tour of England and Ireland, including Dublin, Belfast, Southampton, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and London.

Asobi Seksu's new album Hush was released on 16 February (2009) on One Little Indian as a CD or DL.


1 Layers | 2 Familiar Light | 3 Sing Tomorrow's Praise | 4 Gliss | 5 Transparence | 6 Risky And Pretty | 7 In The Sky | 8 Meh No Mae | 9 Glacially | 10 I Can't See | 11 Me & Mary | 12 Blind Little Rain

"The perfect ratio of sweet vocal to abrasive rock" The Guardian

"Stunningly beautiful breathtaking" NME

"Contenders for being one of the most inventive bands out there" Clash

"The beautiful voice of Yuki Chikudate soars free on Asobi Seksu's electrifying album Hush; a gentle, musically-adventurous album with emotive highlights" Maggie Woods, MotorBar

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Asobi Seksu: Me & Mary
Having wowed the media with the
  ‘stunning’ Citrus, Asobi Seksu is
  on track to seduce the critics again
  with the pretty and melodic single
  CD Me & Mary...”

HAVING RECEIVED RAPTUROUS reviews from the critics last year for their second album Citrus — which spawned the fine singles Thursday, Strawberries and Goodbye — and glowing notices across the board, Asobi Seku is set to return early in 2009 with a fantastic and none-more-assured (but as yet untitled) third full-length offering.

The new record is preceded by the "swooping, emphatic single" Me & Mary that "rolls forth on a bed of drums and glistening guitars and features a soaring vocal performance from Yuki Chikudate (keys/vocals)". Yuki and guitarist James Hanna form the core of Asobi Seksu and the silky track is proof of a harmonious relationship.

To be released on 17 November (2008), the beautifully-presented Me & Mary is a pretty song with evocative melodies that sounds rather exotic, blending perfectly with Yuki's soft-voiced, seductive vocals.

Me & Mary is backed by a non-album track, Breathe Into Glass — a gentle, slower delivery with poignant vocals that has a romantic, relaxed sound with an unusual musical accompaniment. It is not surprising that Asobi Seksu has attracted such welcome attention and the new album (title to be announced) will follow the single on 16 February (2009) on CD/DL/Vinyl.

Asobi Seksu's latest single Me & Mary was released on One Little Indian Records on 17 November (2008).

"The beautifully-presented Me & Mary is a pretty song with evocative melodies that sounds rather exotic, blending perfectly with Yuki's soft-voiced, seductive vocals" — Maggie Woods, MotorBar

Reviews for Citrus

"The perfect ratio of sweet vocal to abrasive rock" — The Guardian

"Played with grace and glee, it swoons brightly" — The Independent

"A Stunningly beautiful body of work… breathtaking" — NME

"A real triumph" — The Fly

"Crystalline majesty" — Rock Sound

"Something special and unique" — Pitchfork

"Held together by an ocean of irresistible hooks" — Drowned In Sound

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