Friday, March 6th, 2009
Asobi Seksu and Bell at the El Mocambo in Toronto
Frank YangWhile most bands spend their entire careers trying to nail down that elusive “signature sound”, actually achieving that goal can be as much a curse as a blessing. In the case of New York’s Asobi Seksu being “that band that sounds like J-pop meets My Bloody Valentine” certainly set them apart, but there’s only so much you can do within those boundaries and considering they damn near perfected it with their last album Citrus, the very real question facing them heading into album number three would have been, “what next?”
Their answer was to first strip the roster down to just principals Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna and then head back into the studio with much more Spector on their minds than Shields. And as you might expect, the resultant album Hush requires that the listener’s expectations be adjusted. Though things aren’t nearly as subdued as the album title might imply, they have traded in much of their fuzz-pedal squall for fluffier clouds of reverb and while the leaner sonic approach actually suits them quite well, it also seems their pop instincts were dulled in the process and by making their songs more atmospheric, they’ve also lost some substance. The record sounds more like a band in the process of creating a new identity rather than presenting a completed one.
Their live show, however, remains quite familiar as Tuesday night’s engagement at the El Mocambo proved. Though they’d paid a visit just five months prior, they still managed to draw a very healthy crowd and regardless of the band’s new creative direction, if they came expecting to be assaulted and battered by sound they weren’t disappointed. Apparently all the distortion pedals that didn’t make it into the studio were in the band’s touring van, because they had all their noisemaking toys along with them and weren’t afraid to use them – their signature Christmas and strobe light stage setup was also along for the ride. I was pleased to see that they’ve also developed a distinctive stage presence, with Hanna pacing the stage looking for pedals to stomp on and Chikudate cooly cooing into the microphone and whipping her hair around. And mixed in with the Citrus material and given the more muscular delivery, the Hush songs sounded much more alive, providing a bit of respite – but only a bit – from the sonic tumult of the older songs. If Asobi are looking for some pointers on where to take their sound, perhaps listening to a recording of one of their shows would be a good start – for my money, they’ve got the perfect formula right there.
Tourmates Bell also hailed from New York and the duo – frontwoman and namesake Olga Bell on keyboards and Jason Nazary on drums and both on laptops – were excited to be on their very first tour, this being the second show. Their sound is an interesting take on electronica, melding Bell’s powerful and elastic vocals with unconventional melodies, pop structures and dynamic live drumming. It’s the sort of thing that draws you in, then pushes you away and then pulls you back, sometimes all at once. Kind of strange but definitely intriguing.
Photos: Asobi Seksu, Bell @ The El Mocambo – March 3, 2009
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “New Years”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Let Them Wait”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Sooner”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
MP3: Bell – “Magic Tape”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Me & Mary”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Thursday”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Goodbye”
Video: Asobi Seksu – “Walk On The Moon”
MySpace: Asobi Seksu
Pitchfork solicits a list of this and that from Stuart Staples of Tindersticks while NOW, The Washington Post, Express and New York Press settle for interviews. They play the Opera House on Tuesday night.
NME has details on Jarvis Cocker’s forthcoming album – relevant points are that it’s out May 19, but is
still untitled now entitled Further Complications (via PF) and was produced by Steve Albini… now that’ll be a 180 from the Richard Hawley-helmed romantic lushness of the first record. Can’t wait.
Clash has an extended and thoughtful interview with Ian Brown about the history of The Stone Roses on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their debut album. Yes, the “r” word comes up. No, don’t hold your breath.
Video: Gemma Hayes – “Home”
Wireless Bollinger, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Clash interview Howling Bells, whose new album Radio Wars is – I’m sad to say – being rather justly pilloried. It’s just not very good and considering how much I’d been looking forward to it, is quite a disappointment. Not giving up on the band but it’s a let-down.
To mark their upcoming tour in support of Neko Case, Crooked Fingers have released a new digital EP for “Your Control”, the closing track from their last album Forfeit/Fortune which is a duet between Eric Bachmann and Case. The EP also features a couple covers of Crooked Fingers tunes by Spoon and Lambchop.
Neko Case gives Spinner some of the ground rules for being in her band and talks to JAM about the naturalist themes that run through her work. She also talks to The Los Angeles Times and The Globe & Mail. She’s at Trinity-St Paul’s on April 17 and 18.
Peaches has a date at the Phoenix on May 20. Her new album I Feel Cream is out May 4.
The National Post recorded a video feature on Ohbijou circa their show at Lee’s Palace last November, including a street corner performance backed by The Acorn. And more clarity on the status of Beacons – the band has signed a deal in the UK with Bella Union, making them labelmates – at least over there – with Fleet Foxes and Andrew Bird. Pretty good company. Beacons is set for a June 8 release there and plans are afoot for the North American release and rescheduled tour dates to fall in line with that.
Update: Sad news – Dutch concert webcast site FabChannel is closing its (virtual) doors next week – you have seven days to go root through their massive and beautiful archives. Get to it.