From Que­bec un­der­ground, a fresh take on prog rock

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

If the pro­gres­sive rock­ers who briefly dom­i­nated the cul­tural land­scape in the 1970s were just get­ting started to­day, how would they sound? Per­haps like the band At­suko Chiba. The Mon­treal-based group played Sun­day on the fi­nal night of the 50th an­niver­sary edi­tion of Que­bec City's sum­mer fes­ti­val, which fea­tured mas­sive acts from Me­tal­lica to the Back­street Boys but also aimed to give space to emerg­ing artists. At­suko Chiba takes in­spi­ra­tion from prog rock, the move­ment that gained force in the early 1970s and treated mu­sic more as clas­si­cal sym­phonies than as ra­dio-friendly jin­gles.

But prog rock, as At­suko Chiba's gui­tarist and syn­the­sizer player Kevin McDon­ald noted, was it­self an amal­ga­ma­tion of in­flu­ences, and the Mon­treal group casts its net wide. "Wasabi Hands," the open­ing track off its lat­est EP, "The Mem­ory Em­pire," is dom­i­nated by a heavy bass as a whirl of gui­tar ef­fects builds and the tempo switches gears. In a clear de­par­ture from clas­sic prog rock, Karim Lakhdar's vo­cals on the song take their cue from hip-hop and punk, de­liv­er­ing punches in a style rem­i­nis­cent of Rage Against the Ma­chine's Zack de la Rocha.

"Da­mon­sta Ti­t­il­lates," an­other track off "The Mem­ory Em­pire," floats with sci-fi elec­tron­ica over 10 min­utes be­fore ex­plod­ing into fu­ri­ous gui­tars and screams. "For me, prog rock has al­ways been about push­ing bound­aries and try­ing to do some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent-bring­ing a taste­ful amount of tech­ni­cal­ity while also try­ing to write very in­ter­est­ing and evolv­ing mu­si­cal num­bers," McDon­ald said. All five mem­bers of At­suko Chiba grew up lis­ten­ing to King Crim­son, one of the pioneer­ing prog rock bands.

"We are fans of prog rock for sure-we will wear that in­flu­ence pretty proudly," McDon­ald said with a laugh. "But we're also fans of a whole bunch of other things, too, like hip-hop and punk and rock mu­sic and elec­tronic mu­sic." At­suko Chiba, which sounds like the name of a Ja­panese woman, has no con­nec­tion to Ja­pan. McDon­ald chose the moniker on a whim as the band formed six years ago af­ter watch­ing the anime film "Pa­prika." The group, which re­leased two sep­a­rate EPs last year, strives for flex­i­bil­ity in form and of­ten lets its songs segue into one an­other. At­suko Chiba de­signed its own stu­dio in a re­mote in­dus­trial area of Mon­treal where the band jams at night. "We re­ally wanted to build a space that would al­low us to be cre­ative and to do our own mu­sic and record it and re­lease it on our own," McDon­ald said. Sen­sual punk from Mada­gas­car

The 11-day fes­ti­val, known by its French name Fes­ti­val d'ete de Que­bec, draws some 90,000 peo­ple to its gi­ant main stage but also fea­tures small stages across the his­toric pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal. One of the more provoca­tive acts to play was The Dizzy Brains, a group from Mada­gas­car that trans­ports the en­ergy of punk rock to the is­land na­tion's pol­i­tics. Play­ing for a small but en­thu­si­as­tic crowd, front­man Eddy An­dri­a­narisoa wasted lit­tle time be­fore cast­ing away his T-shirt and tri­umphantly declar­ing that in Que­bec City he had the free­dom to show the sex­u­al­ity of the mu­sic.

The Dizzy Brains-whose rage-filled garage rock gui­tar is in­fused, like The Clash be­fore them, with the rhyth­mic sounds of ska-have found a grow­ing au­di­ence over­seas with protest an­thems such as "Vangy," which takes on cor­rup­tion in Mada­gas­car. "It's not easy liv­ing with all those cops ready to shoot at you/ If you bring it on too much, man, they bare their fangs," he sings in Mala­gasy. The Que­bec fes­ti­val had one of its more ex­per­i­men­tal head­lin­ers Satur­day with Go­ril­laz, the side project of Blur's Da­mon Al­barn.

En­vi­sioned as a "vir­tual band" of an­i­mated char­ac­ters, Go­ril­laz in its stage ver­sion was clearly real with Al­barn play­ing with guests in­clud­ing ris­ing R&B singer Kelela-but the "mem­bers" of the group ap­peared be­hind them as car­toon ac­tors. — AFP

The Que­bec group At­suko Chiba per­forms on stage.

Mada­gas­car's Eddy (left) and Ma­hefa (right) of The Dizzy Brains per­forms on stage.

The Que­bec group At­suko Chiba per­forms on stage.

Da­mon Al­barn of the English band Go­ril­laz per­forms for the first time at the Que­bec City Sum­mer Fes­ti­val.

Ethiopian-Amer­i­can singer Kelela per­forms on stage.

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