Tearing Down the Wall

    This is perhaps appropriate for a band whose name translates to “playful sex,” and whose lead singer coos such suggestive oddities as “put your tongue to my battery” (that is, when she’s not cooing her unimaginables in Japanese). Asobi has pared themselves down from four members to two: The only survivors are pixie-like lead singer Yuki Chikudate — whose otherworldly siren’s pipes make it hard to believe she hails from SoCal — and instrumentalist James Hanna.

    The removal of excess baggage is starkly apparent on new studio album Hush — released last February — and Rewolf, December’s full-length of acoustic self-covers. The title of the former seems a direct order for those who pigeonholed Asobi as shoegaze band the second their 2007 breakout Citrus blew up. And indeed, the stereotype was on point: Citrus oozes in charged wall-of-sound sweetness, more than just a little My Bloody Valentine running through its veins.

    But now we have Hush, on which Asobi more lightly treads the reverb-free clouds of dream-pop than immerse themselves in the special effects of shoegaze — giving Chikudate new power behind the mic. The objective has switched to unfolding an epic, where before they focused on creating the woozy ambiance in which an epic story could unfold.

    On Hush’s “In the Sky,” background sound is almost minimalistic — a simple beat, a keening guitar chord — far from the churning feedback of albums past. By tearing down the wall, everything still here becomes more: the lyrics more meaningful, the sparse instruments more consequential by sheer dint of rarity.

    It’s Rewolf, however — a direct preview of Friday’s acoustic show — that unveils the grandest evolutions. Their best songs stripped to the core, Asobi stay beautiful and reveal themselves as more than some exotic warbles hiding beneath noise pop.

    Of course, Chikudate’s lilting voice and psychedelic lyrics remain — she still yowls about acidic attic bees on “Familiar Light” — but interpretation shifts radically between the two incarnations. In its original grungy shell, the song is a delirious anthem to hallucinations of apathy; whittled down, it is haunting and melancholic — like the tune from a music box belonging to a sad girl.

    So it goes with Rewolf, and their new live show. Studio tricks and complex textures in the past, Asobi becomes nothing more than Chikudate’s airy vocals set to guitar and drums. All tracks are slowed and sweetened, every word entirely discernable — unlike the glossolalia of albums past — rising to the surface as forgettably pretty guitars swirl down the glass.

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