Drawing back the viscid curtain that surrounded 2006’s Citrus, Asobi Seksu’s Hush releases the band from its gooey shoegaze cocoon, a transformation that frees up their sound but also leaves it strangely bare. The result is an album with a broader range, more exploratory but less interesting and without the same sense of coherence, like an intriguingly cloudy sky that lifts to reveal a sunny, perfectly ordinary day.
The band still nestles frequently under waves of atmospheric noise, settling into lulling, hypnotic drones that, while closely resembling previous songs, still feel comfortable and alluring. The moments where these layers are stripped off, while different for the band, end up sounding less like new ground than unfortunate pastiche. This, along with lead singer Yuki Chikudate’s newly widened range of vocal tones and her decision to eschew Japanese lyrics, pushes the band’s sound toward the generic, weakening the exotic, thickly mysterious feel they had previously cultivated.
There are moments where this change seems for the better, the way “Gliss” makes so much of its simple bassline, decorating it with a loopy, vacillating keyboard melody and creating a sparsely graceful atmosphere. “I Can’t See” is quiet and reserved for its first three minutes before blooming into explosive keyboard arpeggios and soaring vocal harmonies that crest on a long, drawn-out peak. But “Glacially” feels like a slower, worn down version of Citrus‘s sensational “Goodbye,” removing that song’s harsh edges and dragging down the tempo, and overall Hush feels like a duller version of its predecessor—its skies clearer, its horizons broader, an expansiveness that makes it feel all the more depleted.