With the release of two albums and a couple of EPs, Montreal-based psych outfit Atusko Chiba — Karim Lakhdar (guitar, vocals, synthesizer), Kevin McDonald (guitar, synthesizer), David Palumbo (bass guitar, vocals), Anthony Piazza (drums) and Erik Schafhauser (guitar, synthesizer) — have developed and honed a reputation for crafting a cohesive and hypnotic blend of post-rock, prog rock and krautrock paired with offbeat, subversive songwriting.
The members of Atsuko Chiba pair their unique brand of experimental rock with video and light installations trigged in real time by the band, creating an immersive multimedia, multi-sensorial environment. Over the past few years, the band has toured across Canada, the States and Europe, sharing stages with . . . And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Big Business, Duchess Says, King Buffalo, and others.
Atsuko Chiba’s highly-anticipated third album, Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing is slated for a January 20, 2023 release through Montreal-based purveyors of all things psychedelia, Mothland. The album reportedly finds the Canadian quintet crafting a collection of drone-driven yet bombastic material that may draw comparisons to the likes of The Mars Volta, Beak>and Spirit of the Beehive among others.
“As opposed to our last album, which was about introspection, spacetime and the personal journey, the themes explored on this new album are related to our environment and our reaction to it,” the members of Atsuko Chiba explain. “Though not meant to be strictly political, our references stem from highly politicized movements and ideas. Division and group ideology are heavily explored. A prime example is the weaponization of vocabulary used to distract, displace and alienate us, forcing us to pick sides on every front. Our lyrics also strongly denote our innate love for all living things, encompassing a hopeful, if somewhat violent, plea for change.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about the album’s expansive, slow-burning A Storm in Heaven-meets-Dark Side of the Moon-like “Seeds.” Clocking in at 7:45, the track is centered around lush, glistening synths, swirling guitar riffs, tweeter and woofer rattling boom bap-like drumming paired with heavily distorted vocal harmonies. The single also features a gorgeous contribution from Montreal-based string quartet Quatuor Esca, who perform an arrangement by Gabriel Desjardins. While possessing a sprawling, widescreen atmosphere, “Seeds” evokes a creeping sense of impending uncertainty and doom but with the tacit understanding that perhaps not all is lost — at least not yet.
Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing‘s second and latest single “Link” is rooted in a chugging and aggressive rhythm section, scorching and blaring alarm-like synths, buzzing poly harmonic guitar lines paired with booming vocals. While sounding a bit like it could have been recorded during the Trace sessions, “Link” is an urgent, mosh pit friendly ripper — with a widescreen, cinematic quality.
“’Link’ is about judgement; how we often tend to judge and belittle others to prop up our own self worth,” the members of Atsuko Chiba explain. “It’s about the lengths we go through to destroy others, while not taking the time to look inside.“
Directed by Laurine Jousserand, the accompanying, animated video for “Link” is mind-bending and trippy visual that sees the protagonist become their own enemy. “We wanted to create an evolving picture based on implicit concepts; a metaphorical narrative through contemplative representation,” Jousserand explains. “The challenge became addressing themes such as sterile conflict or false pretense from an internal point of view while using minimal movement. Lyrics and visual elements immerse us within an accusatory monologue, the enemy taking on the form of the narrator, though their identity bears no importance. Nature becomes increasingly uncomfortable, eventually engulfing the subject, stripping them of their humanity until they are quasi-vegetal and ultimately linked to their doubles. These ghost-like twins are hostile yet passive, mimicking their every movement. The final scene takes the rhetoric out of its intimate and personal confines, giving it different identities, expressing a general state of being, a shared reality.”