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20 Watts Reviews Asobi Seksu’s Transparence EP by Eric Vilas-Boas
The New York dream-poppers drop a new EP this week

The New York dream-poppers drop a new EP this week

PREVIEW: Download “Transparence (Aa Remix)” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 12/20 Watts

With their new EP Transparence, Asobi Seksu take a song from their latest full-length Hush and blow it up into a big deal. Though not necessarily a new or interesting move to make, plenty of respectable bands do it, so Asobi Seksu’s latest release wouldn’t be that big a deal … if this glorified single had better music on it.

Asobi Seksu are four shoegazers from New York with a Japanese name that translates to “casual sex.” They came onto the scene in 2004 with a decent debut, followed by a well-constructed sophomore effort, Citrus, in 2006. On Hush, which dropped early this year, and its companion piece Transparence, the band mostly leans to the other end of the current indie-psychedelic spectrum, dream-pop. The problem is that, just like veteran indie dreamers Blonde Redhead, Asobi Seksu’s dreamier sonic explorations work better in theory than on record.

Where Citrus was dynamic and incisive, from the crunching opening bass-line of “Thursday” to the cohesively cacophonic intro of closing track “Mizu Asobi,” most of everything on Hush and Transparence is softer and sweeter, which sometimes works to the band’s disadvantage.

Transparence starts off well enough, with a rerecorded, though largely unchanged, version of the title track. Despite this, with its rhythmic, six-beat drum intro, it begins as a more interesting song than the one on the album, but then quickly reveals itself to be more of what’s already been heard. If anything, it’s quieter, with the volume on Yuki Chikudate’s vocals and Larry Gorman’s drums turned down towards the climactic screams at the end. Why that seemed like a good decision at the time is a mystery.

The faster, more energetic Aa remix of “Transparence” stands up as a much better song than the original, however. While it’s an interesting remix in its own right, with a sped-up beat and warped vocals, Aa apparently decided to throw in an fat closing drum beat thirty seconds before the end of the song. This helps to finish a short song off in a huge way, and coming in at less than three minutes, it never outstays its welcome. With this remix, “Transparence” inches closer to the pure pop song it could have been originally, and that’s not a bad thing.

The other two tracks on the EP aren’t much to write home about. “Urusai Tori” is sung predominantly in Japanese and its instrumentation and Chikudate’s non-lingual vocalizing alone aren’t enough to make it anything particularly special to native English speakers. “Miniature Cities” tries its best to tie an ethereal, rapid-eye-induced bow on the whole affair. However, rather than impress, its final two-minutes of vocal/instrumental harmony and fade-out only reminds listeners of what dozens of other bands that came before Asobi Seksu have done better in the past.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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