Asobi Seksu

Proof that art-pop is way past beautiful artefacts created in a vacuum, with the appearance of novelty. This is a piece that knows the milieu it moves in and sets out to inhabit the space in style but with an eye to worldwide markets. Thatís not to say it is in any way cynical. Itís no more cynical than the glittering things made by labelmate, Bjork. Working on the strengths of a burbling bass guitar, sometimes allowed to distort, rising pop harmonies and a cute, female voice, Asobi Seksu (means playful sex, apparently) know what they are doing, theyíre creating semi-symphonic pomp. Big sweeps of backing pop to the clever frontage. Touchstones are Cocteau Twins, Spiritualised and Sigur Ros. The Cocteau Twins for the echoey female vocals wandering over tunes, Spiritualised for the big space they fill and Sigur Ros for the attitude to music as architecture.

The box itself is lovely Ė fluorescent orange, housing a pretty, almost retro, leaflet and bilingual, bi-alphabetical details. Once upon a time this band was (rightly) compared to My Bloody Valentine, for the massive guitar overload, giving that intense floaty quality. Now James Hanna has eased back on the overload and allowed Hajiís bass to underpin the whole thing, serving as rhythmic foundation, while other guitar noises counterpoint and illuminate. Yuki floats and stabs above it all, occasionally buried in those moments where the sonic architecture gets overwhelming. And it does. At times it builds up to a great slab of vagely tuneful noise with no discernable progress, just a sonic sculpture.

Not from Japan, as Yukiís vocals might lead you to assume, Asobi Seksu are from New York where they love to call them shoegazers. Maybe thatís not the almost-insult it is here or maybe itís a retro thing but, for me, Asobi Seksu fit into that nether world of bands that walk sideways and parallel to the mainstream, achieving a timeless quality that attracts cults.

Ross McGibbon