Que­bec un­der­ground: A fresh take on pro­gres­sive rock

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

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 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 Em- pire, floats with sci-fi elec­tron­ica over ten 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 evolv- ing 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.


Marie-Renèe Grondin per­forms dur­ing Que­bec City Sum­mer Fes­ti­val

Da­mon Al­barn of the English band Go­ril­laz

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