Asobi Seksu

Fluorescence

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The cover art may resemble a Cocteau Twins record thanks to the handiwork of Vaughan Oliver, who designed a good share of the 4AD catalog, but for Fluorescence, Asobi Seksu take another step away from their shoegaze influences. On their fifth album (fourth if you skip the prior album of acoustic reworkings), the wall of distortion is minimized and Yuki Chikudate's vocals are pushed to the forefront to be left wavering in the wind. Her voice previously sounded sweet and gentle when buried in guitar swirl -- particularly on Citrus and the excellent self-titled debut. Up close and personal, it can be dodgy, especially when she aims at shrill high notes and skates around them. This style of singing, matched with the softer, glossier, ‘90s-sounding production of Chris Zane (Tokyo Police Club, the Walkmen), makes the material more in tune with the Cranberries than My Bloody Valentine. Fans of the early dream pop stuff may have difficulties accepting a cleaner, more synthesized pop approach. At the same time, the shimmering, slow-motion beat of “Counterglow” might pull in some new crossover fans, and James Hanna's guitar layering on “Trails” is a nice nod to their heavier past.

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