Dialling down the distortion works out for Asobi Seksu

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      Change is good, but sometimes the subtlest changes yield the most satisfying results. Consider Asobi Seksu’s most recent album, Hush. It hardly represents a drastic paradigm shift for the Brooklyn duo, which remains based around Yuki Chikudate’s charmingly ethereal voice and James Hanna’s tastefully textured guitar-playing (and occasional singing). The collection, the group’s third long-player, is nonetheless the product of a fresh approach by Asobi Seksu, as Chikudate tells the Straight.

      “We went in with the idea that we wanted to open up the sound a little bit more and not dirty the songs up too much with 20 distorted guitars, you know?” she says, reached just as the band is driving out of New York, en route to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Indeed, Hush is a more expansive listening experience than its immediate predecessor, 2006’s Citrus. On the new record, the fuzz is dialled back and the vocals are to the fore. That gives the opening cut, “Layers”, a dreamy shimmer worthy of Cocteau Twins and lends “Me & Mary” a nice dynamic shift when the buzz-saw guitar finally does kick in during the chorus.

      Given all of that, you might think critics would stop calling Asobi Seksu a shoegazer band, but no such luck. Chikudate admits she has never been fond of that particular appellation, but she’s getting past caring what other people choose to call the music she and Hanna make.

      “It’s out of our control—and sort of not my business, either. Everybody is entitled to their interpretation and their perspective. And so whatever people want to call us is fine with me.”

      In any case, the duo indulges in very little gazing at its sneakers on Rewolf, an all-acoustic album scheduled for release in November. Recorded at the request of Derek Birkett, founder of the band’s U.K. label, One Little Indian, Rewolf finds Chikudate and Hanna performing refreshingly spare versions of a selection of songs from their catalogue. The recording was done in a single 10-hour session at London’s famed Olympic Studios. The facility, which hosted everyone from the Beatles and Led Zeppelin to Madonna and the Spice Girls, closed shortly thereafter.

      “At that time we didn’t know we were going to be the last band,” Chikudate reveals. “We heard from the engineer there that they were probably going to get shut down, but he didn’t know when. It just worked out where us and U2 were the last bands to be there. We were actually there at the same time, and they were occupying, I would say, 99 percent of the studio and we used the one live room that wasn’t occupied by the U2 team.”

      Hanna discovered that working in the same building as the Irish superstars has its perks.

      “They even had a full catering service there 24/7,” Chikudate says, “and I guess James wandered in there not knowing that it was their catering, and walked out with a cookie. And possibly a banana.”

      Asobi Seksu plays the Biltmore on Tuesday (October 6).