Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence

March 30th, 2011 by WLOY Staff

As listeners, we desire familiarity– something to grasp on to, to harken back to. Looking back on the past can help us understand the present, but this desire gets us in trouble sometimes. We can get too caught up in striving to label that modern day My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive that we forget to appreciate the distinctness of the tongue-twister-tagged Asobi Seksu. ‘Tis a shame, because they’ve delivered another praise-worthy dreamscape of an album in Fluorescence. The Brooklynites first drifted hazily towards fame with the bilingual beauty Citrus in the early 2000’s, practically defining one of the most vexingly-named subgenres ever created, newgaze (which pains me merely to type). The music, on the other hand… oh the music. A catchy mish-mash of dream-pop and shoegaze with dulcet, mellifluous female warbling like glue fusing the two sounds? Yeah, it’s that pleasant. But here we are at Fluorescence, an album that finds itself in the same trance that Citrus succumbed to, and is all the better for it. Despite a few elongated hiccups throughout, Asobi Seksu have crafted a piece that harkens back to the days of the symphonic guitar melodies and overbearing atmosphere; but basks in its own serenity, a practically self-contained album untethered only by its own liveliness.

Fluorescence can be divided up into halves, more or less. The first six tracks display a meandering, lively affair evidenced perfectly by the ebullient “Trails.” Yuki sings with more gusto than ever before, and her vocals carry the track amid a flurry of synthesizers and bouncy melodies. Upon “Sigh” though, Asobi Seksu have seemingly found their way through the hazy fog of the primary six tracks, and are free to dance about on the clearer, solid ground they’ve found. The distinction isn’t incredibly drastic, but there’s a noticeable change. Perhaps it’s displayed best by the Vampire Weekend-esque poppy bliss of “Trance Out.” I fear “poppy bliss” sells the achievements of the ending short though, as the latter half and its more undeviating and diluted (to a reasonable degree) atmosphere is where Fluorescence achieves its momentum. Despite the Floydian reverie of “Leave The Drummer Out There” and similarly beautiful individual tracks, there’s a certain indistinctness and lack of clarity in much of Asobi’s latest. More likely than not, it’s due to the (over)production. Yuki’s vocals seem to be battling it out with the synthesizers at times, and more often than not, both parties lose the fight. Both elements have larger roles in Fluorescence than they have in Citrus, for instance, and it seems like Asobi Seksu weren’t quite sure how to make room. The stars of the show have a hard time sharing the stage.

Luckily, the loss of artistic focus and overbearing production don’t wholly swallow the two, dreamy hipsters; and the restraint of the second-half is finalized by an understated fade-out at the conclusion of “Pink Light” (yet another of the band’s aptly-titled tracks). So while Fluorescence is an obvious continuation of the blissful fuzziness on Citrus, it’s both flawed and fresh. As sweet and mellifluous as it is, don’t be surprised if Fluorescence leaves you with a rather odd aftertaste.

Final Score: 3.6/5

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