Label: One Little Indian Release Date: 17/02/09

Having charmed the music world through the fantastically democratic process of word of mouth, Asobi Seksu are back. Previous slow-growing smash Citrus, originally released in 2006 in USA, was picked up in Europe the following year as news of their 'Shoegaze' antics spread like wild fire, landing on many a 'End of Year' list. Hush is the third album from the American/Japanese hybrid, but their first under the glare of anticipated fans and the music industry. New pressure, new direction? To a certain extent yes, a departure is evident from previous work, whilst keeping many of their soaring trademark sounds.

Lead single Me and Mary is seemingly a continuation from where they left off previously, an urgent, catchy and beautiful piece of pop. However, this is not indicative of the album as a whole, not a Citrus Mk II. The wall of sound approach is still most definitely evident, though on a subtler level with layers more transparent. This subtlety leads to less obvious killer ‘stand out singles’, and on first listens seems to leave the listener wanting, almost a disappointment.

But with repeated listens the gorgeous tones are absorbed as if through some musical osmosis, and the whole album flows naturally and majestically.

Opening tracks Layers and in particular Familiar Light are fine examples of this approach, starting out at a slower pace and taking time to reach their zeniths yet still satisfying. Yuki Chikudate’s vocals remain as breath-takingly translucent as ever throughout, and also as indecipherable, but that is an irrelevance for the most. Glacially is one of the few ‘Single contenders’; the simple yet unusual, stunningly ethereal yet pragmatic guitar riff that leaves the listener feeling warm all over. Similar in style to The Radio Dpt, but not quite as mechanical. Hush does verge on the dull and slightly pedestrian in a couple of places, the point proven in I Can’t See that fails to stir anything.

It remains ideal winter listening, perfect for lounging indoors covered by a protective homely duvet, gazing at the harsh outside world as the snow comes. Beats the balls off of 'Shoegazing' that’s for sure. As shown by the feeling of warmth and luminosity in songs, the way in that the tracks blend into a mass of hazy, sweet fog, and of course the bells. Not forgetting those vocals, an aural delight. For those expecting another Citus, you will be disappointed. But those who expect another Citrus, you deserve to be disappointed quite frankly; for why would a band as talented and creative as Asobi Seksu tread water? Not always consistent throughout, it is a real grower and given time, your patience will be greatly rewarded.

7/10