Brooklyn-based nu-gaze quartet Asobi Seksu have, on their fifth album, worked out both what they're best at, and when to stretch. Long-recognized as being in thrall to the sonic textures of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins (and proudly displaying album artwork by legendary 4AD in-house designer Vaughan Oliver), on Flourescence they purvey those textures beautifully while simultaneously leavening them with a host of outside influences — from '60s girl-group pop to unabashed tempo-mangling Prog. If they've occasionally stuttered since their 2006 breakthrough Citrus, they're now in thrilling voice again. "Fluorescence" flickers with florid genius.
Yuki Chikudate's high-pitched coos assert themselves over busy, blistering arrangements that are loaded with treated guitars and squalling keyboards, while the rhythm section rustles up energy to match Animal Collective or the Flaming Lips. "Trails" imagines Karen O and Kevin Shields competing for dominance, but Chikudate's blend of stridency and innocence is a beacon through the layers, and something that could have been cacophonous ends up mighty catchy. "My Baby" skips along on stop-start beats and shivering sonic sidebars before exploding into euphoria; "Perfectly Crystal" reboots classic shoegazing tropes until they gleam with new life. The album's centerpiece is "Leave the Drummer Out There" which glides from hectic to frenetic, then shape-shifts into contrasting phases and moods with gravitas that wouldn't shame early Genesis. It's perhaps as a counterbalance that "Sighs" is as sweet as Blondie's chirpier side, but by "Pink Light" the band is reaffirming their trippier, endlessly echoing motifs.
Dream-pop isn't in short supply these days, but Asobi Seksu (colloquial Japanese for "playful sex") thrive through a mix of exuberance and guile. Their fusion of charm and chaos isn't easy to achieve but always sounds fluid and sparkling. Everything they've absorbed from their idols pours out as bright light.