With the release of a couple of EPs and two albums, Montréal-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 a reputation for crafting a cohesive and hypnotic blend of post-rock, prog rock and krautrock paired with offbeat, subversive songwriting.
For their live shows, the Canadian psych outfit 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.
The band’s highly-anticipated third album, Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing officially dropped today. Recorded at Room 11, the band’s studio, alongside their sixth member, engineer Matthew Cerantola, the album stems from months of experimentation, as well as conceptual dichotomies informed by some rather strange times, and sees the band crafting an album’s worth of genre-defying, drone driven 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.
We were also influenced by musical genres that tend to be more repetitive such as electronic or drone music. We discussed topics such as drones, ragas, hypnotic rhythms, minimalism, spatial awareness, musicality through overall patience, trying a less-is-more approach, etcetera. This led to us five playing as an ensemble rather than as musicians with defined roles; we were all responsible for pushing forward the main idea.”
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles:
- The 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.
- “Link,” a track 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.“
Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing‘s third and latest single “Shook (I’m Often)” may arguably be the most raga-like of the album’s released singles: Featuring layers of droning guitars, a relentless motorik groove paired with Lakdar’s plaintive crooning, the album’s latest single is a sprawling soundscape that’s simultaneously brooding and trippy. But underneath the trippy vibes is a song that evokes an uneasy stasis.
The accompanying video features fittingly hallucinogenic imagery animated by the band’s Anthony Piazza.