By Al Kaufman
At first glance, Asobi Seksu seems like one of those holier-than-thou bands. They have drug-inducing cover art, a name that sounds cosmopolitan (but really just means “playful sex” in Japanese), and decided not to even print the track listings on their CD. They also write a lot of moody, richly-layered techno-pop. But, wow, do they do it well.
“Trails” is a swirling, loosely tethered cacophony that approaches some of Bjork’s best dervishes. Yuki Chikudate has a voice that rivals the Icelandic star’s, but she does so without being as grating.
“My Baby” includes just a hint of ’60s girl groups amid its rushing melody. But that is nothing compared to cuts such as “Leave the Drummer Out There” and “Sighs.” “Drummer” begins with a pretty and flowing melody that slowly builds into a majestic midpoint with Broadway-induced flourishes, before again morphing into a march. The following “Sighs” begins with a Cure-ish opening, only to give way to Chikudate’s bubbly soprano. It’s what makes Asobi Seksu special. Yes, they are an introspective, super cool, synth-pop band, but they’re not afraid to break out of the mold for the sake of the song. This is, after all, a band that once covered the Ramones punk holiday classic, “Merry XMas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight).” James Hanna’s layered guitars add some much needed warmth, and the album as a whole is almost as adventurous as it is cool, which makes for a whole lot of adventure.
Asobi Seksu plays The EARL in Atlanta, Ga. on March 21…
…and Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C. on March 25.