Asobi Seksu

“Trails” – Asobi Seksu

Try as he might to scrape down the walls with a siren-y electric roar, guitarist James Hanna always leaves room for singer Yuki Chikudate to settle the ear with a bit of sweetness. “Trails” is a particularly intriguing version of this NYC duo’s distinctive blending of melody and noise, as Hanna launches his attack underneath a mid-tempo ballad; he so distracted me, in fact, with his initial onslaught (say, 0:07 and what follows)—including some ear-bending dissonance (e.g. 0:30)—that the cool pop assurance of the chorus caught me by delighted surprise.

And then: check out how the guitar ferocity lets up around 2:30—we get a quieter lead line, more jangly than jarring, and a softer but now more audible snare beat. When the noise starts up again, it’s muted, and grander, almost symphonic, with choruses of echoey reverb which may or may not be voices framing the soundscape. Note too how Chikudate, who can do the breathy soprano thing with the best of them, likewise shows us a full-bodied belt in this closing section that is vivid and savory. All in all a thoroughly satisfying four minutes.

“Trails” is from the band’s forthcoming album, Fluorescence, scheduled for a February release on Polyvinyl Records. MP3 via Spinner. It’s the band’s fourth album, and second as a duo (they began life as a quartet). No strangers around these parts, Asobi Seksu was featured on Fingertips both in 2004 (for the sublime “I’m Happy But You Don’t Like Me,” no longer free and legal but always great) and 2006 (“Thursday,” still available).