Atsuko Chiba Are Fluid and Furious on 'Water, It Feels Like It's Growing'

BY Stephan BoissonneaultPublished Jan 18, 2023

Atsuko Chiba's latest album demands, but also harmoniously rewards, repeat listens. The Montreal five-piece's third full-length, Water, It Feels Like It's Growing is a concoction of unexpected ingredients, revealing a new melody or hidden rhythm with each listen.

Releasing oneself to the album results in a whiplashing hypnosis that'll hang around well after you've finished listening. The utilization of repetition from this hydra of talent — whether it be bass, synths, droning guitar lines, towering drum fills or elusive vocals — makes for a thunderous bedrock of instrumentation. And as goes the legend of the Herculean multi-headed monster — cut off one head and two will take its place — the same goes with every track on Water, It Feels Like It's Growing. Just when you think you understand a song's shape, it suddenly splits; the band will offer a haunting guitar trill or synth flourish halfway through a track like "Seeds" before bursting into an orchestral interlude with a string section of violins and cello. 

The thematic pulse of the album is a loose one, and it's easy for its slippery notions to pass by in the enormous wake of sound. But at its heart, Water, It Feels Like It's Growing is about our relationship with the environment —  how we're cultivating its destruction, but also how it affects us on an intimate, daily level. 

That mindset lends itself to a pervading darkness, one driven by the band's palpable anger — likely unearthed after discussing how humanity's relationship with nature and themselves is being fractured every day. A new high-rise towers over the city; a super mall or major highway clears the trees, animals, and rivers; CEOs pay cheques get fatter as they dole out measly promotions and workers push toward expansion until there's nothing left.

It's a vicious cycle that offers little reprieve, but Atsuko Chiba manage to make the onslaught feel alive with possibility — their music pushes you to action rather than defeat. Water, It Feels Like It's Growing is the science fiction of JG Ballard mixed with the post modernist depression of Vladimir Nabokov; it celebrates the possibilities of life while speaking to how these possibilities are being stripped away. It's the energy of punk stewards Wire fused with a touch of the stylish adventurousness of modern progressive rockers the Mars Volta. It's your good days and bad days rolled up into one. It's that and so much more.

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