For a band like Asobi Seksu, releasing an acoustic album is a curious choice. The band deals in dreamy atmosphere, sanding the grind of My Bloody Valentine down to a beautiful hum. But not even a year after releasing its excellent third album, Hush, the band reimagines some of its best work. On Rewolf, sonic layers are stripped away, replaced by the ringing clarity of Yuki Chikudate’s vocals and the warm sway of James Hanna’s guitar.
Overall, this sparer approach works. The band still soaks Chikudate’s vocals in echo and loops backing vocals behind her, so this isn’t totally laid bare. In these versions, the melodies do the heavy lifting that the atmosphere did before, and they sound up to the task. For devoted fans, some of the most exciting stuff will be the B-sides, the best of them being the band’s sweet but ghostly take on Mazzy Star’s “Suzanne.” Here Chikudate shows off a subtle range in her voice, toning down to a confessional hush that nods nicely to Mazzy singer Hope Sandoval.
The highlights of Rewolf are pretty unsurprising. “New Years,” Familiar Light,” and “Thursday,” all stand-outs on previous records, shine the brightest here. “Thursday” is the best reinterpretation on the disc, cast as a simple but affecting doo-wop ballad. And “Familiar Light” is the barest new take, and because it came from the ultra-rich Hush, it serves as a nice bookend to a productive year for the band.
The album has some other nice moments, but none that quite match up. Rewolf is a charming set, a nice new sound from these guys and an interesting look back at their young discography. It was made confidently, with no apparent intentions of it being some toss-off or fan-only disc. But by album’s end, don’t be surprised if you’re reaching for Citrus to dive back into their dream world. It really is where Asobi Seksu is at its best.