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Asobi Seksu and Bell @ The Troubadour, 3/14/09
Walking in at the Troubadour that night was like walking into a magic forest glade. I half expected to see sparkling nymphs in gauzy outfits leaping around from behind the concert goers, cackling merrily as they played tag. Perhaps if there had been any absinthe in the place that would be exactly what I saw. Brooklyn's electro pop piece Bell was on stage spreading their musical glitter all over the Troubadour making it sparkle and shine.
Front woman, Olga Bell, looked radiant in a tiger striped blouse and asymmetrical haircut. She stood in front of her synthesizer and held court like some sort of fairy queen. The other members of her outfit were both drummers that sat on either side of her like royal guards. It almost seemed as if she had picked her drummers to match their sets. The traditional set was manned by a very clean cut man in a polo shirt and glasses who contrasted starkly with his partner on the other side who played an electric kit and had wild flowing hair and tight jeans.
The echoing effect from the microphone garbled any lyrics we might have gleaned from the song, but I have a sneaky suspicion that they weren't all that important. Olga threw her voice against the beats that surrounded her like a jazz singer, so that it became just another instrument in the piece. While I watched her perform it suddenly struck me...I had seen this performance before. She was doing her best Bjork impression, and it wasn't half bad. Except that Bell is not willing to take the big scary risks that Bjork does, but perhaps on the next album they will probe further past the pretty and into the darker, scarier unknown.
The ethereal quality of the evening continued as Asobi Seksu took the stage. The mic stand and amplifiers were covered in Christmas lights gave the room a magically feel which was only increased by Yuki Chikudate's voice. Standing at five feet nothing, Chikudate took the stage in a leather jacket followed by her band. Do not let her small stature fool you, Yuki Chikudate will tear you apart. She has the voice of an angel (and not the namby pamby naked cherub kind either. The old testement kind with fiery swords that descend upon you and blast your head off with the word of God.) Although I would guess that if an angel did have a rock band, she would not call it Asobi Seksu, which a colloquial Japanese expression for casual sex. Maybe they would. Rock 'n' roll is about rebellion after all.
Despite the additional drummer and bassist, Asobi Seksu is primarily comprised of Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna. Her almost cloyingly sweet voice is the perfect addition to Hanna's crunchy monster guitar riffs. The sound that man generates is as dark and scary as Chikudate's voice is light and pure and the combination of the two is this glorious fuzzed out shoe-gaze blast that will both break your heart and at the same time make you want to conquer villages. Like Bell, Chikudate's lyrics were completely lost in the pulverizing rhythms, but I don't think it mattered all that much. For the encore Chikundate took off her jacket and kicked the drummer off his set. She proceeded to keep time until the end of the song which dissolved into incredibly loud white noise. It was a hell of a show.
If you guys missed Asobi Seksu this time around, I highly recommend you go see them on May 2 when they're back in Los Angeles supporting French legend Yann Tiersen at the El Rey Theater.
Photo courtesy of Asobi Seksu's MySpace.