Atsuko Chiba – Trace

[Self Released, 2019]

Intro: Dimitris Kaltsas
Translation: Lefteris Statharas
01 / 08 / 2019

Very few things are known about Atsuko Chiba from Montreal, Canada. Six years after their first album entitled Jinn, Anthoy Piazza (drums), David Palumbo (bass, vocals), Eric Schafhauser (guitar, synths) Karim Lakhdar (guitar, vocals, synths) and Kevin McDonald (guitar, synths) are back with Trace and it is obvious that their effort to build an audience is strictly on their own terms.


If The Mars Volta loved post-rock

No matter how positively predisposed one can be by the album cover art (designed by Papernoise), what Atsuko Chiba have in store in their second album is far from what one would expect. The noticeable difference is mainly in the use of synthesizers which is a work of genius. Unravelling the skein of the additives in the sound of the Canadians, one would find out elements that contradict each other, yet they weave flawlessly for the most part.

A Heretic of Arrogance is the perfect opener, which introduces us to the new audio pallet of the band. The synths are in the lead plunging the listener into a cinematographic start while the rhythm section of Palymbo and Piazza injects energy when the atmospheric start morphs into a contemporary alternative prog composition with the few notes generating a feeling for impatience for the future. The also atmospheric, more post-rockish Pawn to King I gets denaturated in the proggier Pawn to King II, where the introduction of vocals and the more post-punk attitude reveal the rather more intense influence of the band, The Mars Volta. Captain Colair starts with a complete ambient spirit, and it evolves into a lyrical post-rock piece that ends into a rhythmic post-punk while after an electronic interlude (Sometimes All you Need Is), the band grooves in a particular electro-funk prog environment in the daring Dry Ice, which is a great achievement. Hold On would not be needed if it wasn’t the perfect transition to the best track that closes the album. In New Folds Atsuko Chiba are mixing the Mogwai and Tortoise influenced post-rock with the psychedelic paranoia of The Mars Volta, especially at the end.

Trace is a proposition that doesn’t use any catchy means to achieve recognition. The experimental element, the Mas Volta spirit and the fact that the mix of the elements is -even slightly- more interesting than the songs themselves, render the identification of the audience with the songs much harder. However, the convergence of the theoretically mismatched elements is rare, leading to a conclusion that in the 80s would make people laugh: in the end you can be prog and anything else at the same time.

7.5 / 10

Dimitris Kaltsas


2nd opinion


Right from the first listens of Trace, it’s easy to understand that Atsuko Chiba worked again wanting to create a concise and homogenous result though the mix of elements from different musical genres. This second album of the band from Montreal is a true crucible of sounds and moods, that meet under a united vision and they offer lots of moments of daydreaming and mental uplift to their audience. And it is really enjoyable to listen to them building a sequence from subtractive soundscapes and structured songwriting bases. With the progressive rock logic as the common denominator, they mix psychedelia, post-rock, math-rock, post-punk, krautrock, funk and ambient orientations and they end up building their own concise and personal audio identity. You can find attractions right away. New Folds that closes the album is like a cataclysm of thoughts that is climaxing though the changes of explosions and lyricism. The Pawn of King (I & II), Captain and Dry Ice are revolving around an axis of funk explosions, giving a dancing tone and catchy parts of melodic and roughness to the whole venture. Listen to it and just take a look at the amazing album cover.

8 / 10

Panagiotis Stathopoulos

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