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Asobi Seksu - Water Rats, London, 26/6/2007

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 4 / 7 / 2007

Asobi Seksu - Water Rats, London, 26/6/2007


New York band Asobi Seksu recently made their first tour of Britain. Chris O' Toole wtaches them play a hypnotically evocative set at the Water Rats's in London

Some people would think it unwise to form a thirteen piece ska-band, grab a handful of riffs from the charts and stagger out onto the stage. But not the support act at the Water Rats tonight. In what can only be described as a musical abomination any number of sweaty middle aged men rifle through a collection of third tier tributes to better bands and in the process take five years off my life. Unfortunately I was unable to get the name of the band, and thus cannot warn you against ever seeing them, but be aware, they are out there! Fortunately the headline act tonight, Asobi Seksu, are in a different class to their woefully inadequate warm-up pantomime. The American, via Japan, quartet have been carving out a niche for themselves over in the States for the past five years and have finally secured a record deal over here in the United Kingdom. By blending their brand of My Bloody Valentine evoking dream pop with the hypnotic and sensual vocals of singer Yuki Chikudate the band has won an army of supporters of late and the small but dedicated crowd is ecstatic when the group appear on the small stage tonight. Bulked out to a five piece live with Yuki in the centre of the stage surrounded by fairy lights, Asobi Seksu are much louder and confrontational than one would expect based on their recorded output. They begin by presenting the first four tracks from the second album, ‘Citrus’, in order. Given the layered complexity of the recordings the band creates similar textures and intensity on the stage. Their riffs are heavy and crunchy but are filtered through sugar before being showered down upon the room. Tracks from the self-titled debut, including ‘I’m Happy But You Don’t Love Me Anymore’, receive new interpretations, usually longer and with more experimentation and freedom, and are greeted warmly by the crowd. Asobi Seksu are a strong live band, communicating amongst themselves and hitting some positive highs, but even in a crown of diamonds one has to shine the brightest. Yuki has a voice that soars above the room answering all those nagging questions that crowd the back of the mind in a single swoop. The focal point of the group on record, indeed one of their central assets and the attribute separating Asobi Seksu from the pack, she is the centre of the performance tonight. Hidden being a keyboard the diminutive singer performs with incredible versatility, at once appearing sultry, seductive, dangerous and playful. Indeed the name of the band is a rough translation of the Japanese phrase for "playful sex", and it’s not hard to see which member of Asobi Seksu the name refers to. Taking from their both their albums, the group play for just under an hour. The set, though, is somewhat front loaded. A lot of the more familiar tracks are played early and the end sags a little. The finale also is a little heavy handed. Crescendos are allowed to build for a little two long, solos verge on indulgent, lights flash and splay; all have little impact. What should have been a moment of triumph ebbs away a little, but doesn’t undermine the performance as a whole. This is still a new band learning the trade and as yet haven’t earned the right or acquired the ability to perform these stadium sized feats, but give it a few more years and this could be one very special show indeed.

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