On its self-titled debut album, Asobi Seksu sounds like Blondie molested by My Bloody Valentine, with the added diversion of a Japanese vocalist who sings in a girlish soprano. Expectations of how this formula might work in concert were quickly upturned when the New York quartet performed Thursday at the Black Cat. Rather than noisy and naive, the music was professional and even theatrical. It turns out that Asobi Seksu (the name is Japanese for "sex play'') owes nearly as much to Broadway as to CBGB's.
With singer-keyboardist Yuki Chikudate in a dark-patterned cocktail dress and her band mates all in black (save for bassist Glenn Waldman's white tie), the band looked a bit like a cabaret act. Performing such numbers as "Walk on the Moon," it also sounded like one. Chikudate hit some high notes, but she sang mostly in a lower range, and her style was belting more often than breathy. Even the music's most anarchic element, James Hanna's flailing, impastoed rhythm guitar, sounded tamed.
The set-closing "Sooner" (a distant relation of MBV's "Soon'') had its dramatic moments, with Chikudate banging her head and strobes blasting to illustrate each guitar climax, but they were carefully choreographed. The musicians' control was impressive, yet also a little chilly. Perhaps it was just because the foursome played a relatively short set, but it seemed that Asobi Seksu had edited out its playfulness.
-- Mark Jenkins