Live Review: Asobi Seksu @ Rock and Roll Hotel (2009.03.28)

asobi-seksu-1Photo credit: Fiz

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

MP3: Asobi Seksu – Familiar Light from Hush (2009)

A few weeks ago, I loaded Hush into my media player and the delicate voice of Japanese Yuki Chicudate began to fill my bedroom with dreamy trailing synth and modest ruptures of rhythmic drum. Her lyrics were intricate and poetic—uttered in angelic speech, dominant but not overbearing. Tracks fluctuated between sedated, down-tempo melodies to avant-garde like that of Chairlift’s indie pop.

I pictured delicate rendition with composed deliverance, anticipating a show that could, quite possibly, trigger tears. Finally, I’m standing face to face with the foursome in a packed Rock and Roll Hotel in DC, but what’s to come in the live performance I am not prepared for in the least.

Asobi Seksu can be roughly translated to “playful sex,” but don’t let the petite lead singer fool you. She will rip your head off.

Opening with “Sing Tomorrow’s Praise,” the band plays with heavy distortion, ear-ringing and mind-numbing by the end of the night. Although the tracks are almost equally chosen from albums Citrus and Hush, reverb and melded vocals make the set blend into one long, vibrating piece. Unpredicted, in a good way. The grungy shoegaze elements stretch across all twelve songs, heavy but comforting, like a sexy devil.

A few minutes later, “Mehnomae” opens with tambourine rattles and thundering echoes, less dainty than the recorded translation that juxtaposed Yuki’s saintly ballads. Citrus’ “Strawberries” is even better through the live reinterpretation. Here, the instruments play a stronger role, leaving the lyrics behind as more a faint accented background flutter than the focal point. Stage presence tonight is key, a recurring theme of dark and light, watching the small frame of the Japansese vocalist sway to the engrossing fuzz of an amplifier. Surprisingly, the version of “Thursday” is not too far from the pressed release, pop still apparent and not exchanged for grumbling noise. The sound escalates, picking up speed and building with the opening verse “On gentle ground/ I waited for you/ In drops of dew/ I wished that were you”. Personally, “Thursday” was the one I was looking out for, so I’m grateful its execution was not far off from the source.

“Red Sea” topped off the set, synths wrapping around tugs at a deep bass guitar. Chicudate re-attaches her microphone to the stand and replaces the drummer behind his massive intrument, banging her head as she bows her body with the motion, suspending the song in mid-air for a few extra minutes before walking off stage.

I found Asobi Seksu difficult to get tired of, but at some point, the sound became repetitive, exciting me when the intensity shifted even the smallest measure. Overdrive became irritating, oppressing the beauty in Chicudate’s odes, but I applaud the unpredictable rendering of both albums. Although Hush was unleashed just recently, tracks from Citrus were more multifaceted and progressive. Perhaps the time they’ve had to work with the older pieces built up their courage to transform them. I’ll wait to see if the same happens for Hush.

Related posts

  1. Live Review: Caverns Video Release Party feat. A Place to Bury Strangers, True Womanhood @ Rock and Roll Hotel (2009.06.05)Caverns @ Aural States Fest We’d prepared you for weeks...
  2. Review – Fuck Buttons @ Rock and Roll Hotel, DCFuck Buttons were something else, absolutely engrossing. Too bad Caribou...
  3. Evangelicals, Parenthetical Girls @ Rock and Roll HotelPhotos: Evangelicals, Greensboro NC (right); Parenthetical Girls, Portland OR (below)...
  4. Live Review: Wavves, These Are Powers, Vampire Hands @ The Market Hotel (2009.03.28)Photo credit: Tom Pavlich [Audio clip: view full post to...
  5. Live Review: Baltimore Rock Opera Society presents Gründlehämmer @ 2640 Space (2009.10.03)Editor’s note: This is a long overdue report from the...

Leave a Reply