The core of the band is the Japanese songstress Yuki Chikudate and guitar superhero James Hannah. Behind them is a sturdy, brand new rhythm section, but this really is Chikudate’s and Hannah’s album. They’ve stretched their wings, taken the template of their self titled debut and expanded on it. In doing so, they exceeded all expectations.
In the past Asobi Seksu have had the Shoegazer term attached to them firmly, and Citrus will perhaps incorrectly, continue this trend. James Hannah obviously has the odd My Bloody Valentine album in his collection because much of Citrus’ personality lies in the guitar sound. Huge swathes of feedback abound, guitar lines are drenched in reverb and delay and many of these songs you could drown in there are so many layers. It’s probably significant then that opening track Everything is On (all 17 seconds of it) is something akin to an overture, because at times Hannah’s guitar lines have all the depth of an orchestra.
However, Citrus is an album not simply concerned with effects pedals and dissonance. What elevates Asobi Seksu above being another shoegaze/noise band are Yuki Chikudate’s vocals. At times she can be so twee it hurts, at others she has the sultry whisper of a siren, and every so often there is a deep conviction in her voice that fills her with authority.
Yuki brings a pop sensibility to the record that actually makes you miss the fact that many of these songs are filled with noise and are not just simple pop songs. In fact the first time you hear Citrus you’d be forgiven for mistaking it as an album by the likes of Marine Research or The Shop Assistants (particularly if you’ve just stuck it on in the background).
Without Chikudate this would be yet another album passed off as being in thrall to Kevin Shields. Without Hannah, Citrus could have been almost too poppy. This is an record where everyone is playing to their strengths and making an album that forces genres to kiss, make up and hold hands.
Red Sea demonstrates the joy to be had in strangling a guitar for all its worth while Yuki provides atmospheric warblings that make it so much more than just another indie boy guitar wankfest. Strawberries highlights a band with an undoubted pop edge but one that is more than happy to experiment with textures and sound to create something so much more interesting than yet another throwaway single.
Listening to Citrus is not unlike the first time you heard Bjork‘s Debut. There’s plenty of pop tunes here, but there’s also enough self expression and leftfield rambling to make this an album of real interest. Don’t be surprised to see this sneaking into the more clued up writers’ albums of the year charts come December.