It's a safe bet that any fan of the film Lost In Translation, in which disaffected Americans explore Tokyo to the strains of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain, will find something to love above Asobi Seksu's Citrus. The New York-based duo's sophomore CD, which came out in 2006, boasts not only several Japanese-language songs but also a narcotic haze of guitars and synthesizers that would make any '90s dreampop nostalgist swoon.
Various media outlets (including this one) have been reporting on the supposed resurgence of this sound for the past three or four years, but the shoegazer remains a distinctly underground breed of rock fan, whose aesthetic preferences have seemingly little impact on mainstream tastes. It's no wonder, then, that Asobi Seksu (the name is colloquial Japanese for "playful sex") is hesitant to align itself with any such scene.
"Most people want to categorize it as shoegaze and they want to pin it as part of a shoegaze revival, but I don't think there's anything like that really going on," singer and keyboardist Yuki Chikudate says, reached somewhere on the road to a show at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "That's just my opinion. Serena-Maneesh and our band and M83 does not make a revival, you know?
"I wouldn't really want to be lumped into any kind of movement, either. Like, supposedly the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs started the first New York wave, but what happened to the bands that came after that? I don't think anyone even remembers, you know what I mean? So I wouldn't want to be lumped into a movement or a revival, so to speak, but hopefully we'll just kind of do our own thing and get our attention for that."
Fair enough; it's a strategy that seems to be working just fine. With its angelic pop melodies floating above (and sometime buried beneath) crashing waves of James Hanna's reverb-washed guitar, Citrus has earned positive nods from Entertainment Weekly, Bust, and the ever-important Pitchfork, whose Joe Tangari gushed "This is electric music in every sense of the word-amplified, processed, and imbued with a neon glow." This bodes well for Asobi Seksu's career, as does the fact that the group is no longer under contract to the tiny Friendly Fire Recordings, which released Citrus and 2004's Asobi Seksu. The band is now aligned with Polyvinyl in the U.S. and One Little Indian in Europe. With its labelmates currently including Bjí¶rk and Of Montreal, and a new album in the works, could widespread popularity be far behind? Chikudate declines the opportunity to speculate.
"I think it's always hard for bands when they're in it, you know," she says. "For people who are on the outside, maybe they can be a better judge and gauge what's going on with the band more than the band itself. Like, we have no idea what's going on. Who knows? I have no idea how popular we are, or where we're going, or what our potential is at this point. I don't think we have any idea. It's like a shot in the dark, and we can only hope for the best."
Asobi Seksu plays at the Media Club on Tuesday (October 28).