The Montreal-based quintet Atsuko Chiba wield a brand of art rock which strives to challenge both the audience and the band itself. Over the course of two EPs, one LP and a smattering of other recordings – all self-released – they have brandished a sound that refuses to conform to genre expectations. They blend a dizzying array of stylistic approaches ranging from post-rock to prog, post-punk to hip-hop, and many others in between, all combining in startlingly cohesive fashion into a sound that is uniquely their own.
That being said, the nature of their music has the potential to create a scenario in which listeners need to wipe clean their expectations in order to fully wrap their minds around what the band are attempting to accomplish. There are certain artists for which the cliché “you just have to see them live” absolutely applies, and Atsuko Chiba is amongst those ranks.
Before delving fully into the content to follow, I feel it necessary to provide some anecdotal information. Earlier this year, I travelled two and a half hours to see Atsuko Chiba play a show in a somewhat sketchy section of Manchester, New Hampshire (at very least it was sketchy in comparison to where I live in northern Vermont). The show took place in the smaller room of a two-stage venue, and it was by all accounts a “low-key” show, to put it politely. The room was underwhelming in terms of size, lighting and arrangement, the opening bands were largely uninspiring, and the crowd seemed to be made up mostly of other bands and significant others of band members.
To say the least, it was looking fairly grim for Atsuko Chiba. But people who have attended enough shows will know that certain artists have the ability to entirely alter the vibe of a room, and Atsuko did just that. Sporting a complex array of pedalboards, laptops and keyboards to supplement their core of three guitars, bass and drums, as well as a projector to provide backdrop visuals, the band put on a show that deserved more than what the room had to offer. In fact, audience members who had been at the venue attending a metal show in the larger room began filing in not long after Atsuko’s set began, and the looks on their faces told the tale – this was something the likes of which they’d never experienced before, and the experience itself was rousing.
Using their home studio as the staging ground, Atsuko Chiba have translated this live experience into three videos that capture an appropriately encompassing look at their malleable style of experimental rock. What is probably most impressive is how well they are able to translate live what one would imagine is a heavily-produced studio sound. The first two tracks, “Wasabi Hands” and “Damonsta Titillates” both come from their November 2016 EP The Memory Empire, which we covered here: arcticdrones.com/listen/atsuko-chiba-the-memory-empire
The third and final clip, “Infrared,” comes from the March 2016 EP Figure and Ground, and is definitely the song that drove home the performance most powerfully when I saw them in person. Atsuko Chiba will be touring Europe during October and November, and I would highly recommend attending one of their shows if you’re able.
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