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New York Cool - Music

Arms and Asobi Seksu
Le Poisson Rouge
January 22, 2010

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo:
Yoki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu



Outside of Le Poisson Rouge temperatures were dropping, winds were swirling and limbs were freezing. Outside, winter was asserting its dominance exhibited by chattering teeth, shivering limbs and thick clouds of breath.

Inside the Village venue, however, warm tones and warmer tunes melted through the crowd’s icy shroud as Asobi Seksu continued its acoustic tour amid one of New York City’s coldest nights.


Matty Fasano and Todd Goldstein of Arms


Guests sat in tables as waitresses meandered back and forth occasionally taking and delivering orders. Patrons calmly chattered away in the quiet, low-lit club while waiting for the opener, Arms, to take the stage. All background noise quickly died away, however, once the three-piece eased into its set of hauntingly touching indie ballads.

 


Todd Goldstein of Arms


The rhythms began with an alt-country twang, but haunting vocal harmonies quickly joined the gentle guitar picking to create an earnest, introspective atmosphere. The drum kit laid down a gentle beat underneath the soft crooning resulting in a deeply earthy yet strangely ethereal sound. Arms’ aesthetic echoes Bon Iver in its stark simplicity and the tragic beauty of the songs was not lost on the audience at all. As each song ended with each last poignant note fading into the woodwork those in attendance erupted into applause, urging the band to once again travel the bittersweet territory of life and loss explored in its music.
The moving performance was carried by both the almost tactile drumbeats and he striking vocal harmonies.


James Hanna of Asobi Seksu


Sadly, this penchant for heartstring-pulling subtlety was not repeated in Asobi Seksu’s set. Most fans will note the group’s unbridled energy and unrepentant power-pop mastery, however most of the elements that made the group’s electric work so engaging were missing from the acoustic set. Usually unplugged renditions are more engaging and evocative, but this set merely presented a deflated version of what the band usually offers. The group takes no chances in the re-arrangement of previous favorites and makes no strides with the new material.
The set featured repetitive guitar riffs and an under-used two guitar setup in which both guitarist simply mimicked each other to create a very mid-day, mid-90s radio rock sound.


Yoki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu

To the band’s credit singer Yuki Chikudate’s vocal was both sweeter and fuller than hinted at in previous works. Her voice was thick and yearning, robust and essentially moving. It’s a shame the set reduced a beautiful voice to a front-piece for an average collection of radio rock tunes.

In the sedate, comfortable setting of the club both bands provided a pleasant alternative to the biting weather outside. It was only Arms, however, that provided lasting warmth and comfort.




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