Atsuko Chiba’s 3rd full length release Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing plays out its psychedelic explorations at the environmental level. An inverse thematic orientation to previous album Trace, which aimed to explore “introspection, spacetime and the personal journey”, this most recent release is more overtly political, interrogating how ideologies and weaponised language operate to divide and alienate. The result is a body of work that, in the band’s own words: “strongly denote[s] our innate love for all living things, encompassing a hopeful, if somewhat violent, plea for change.”
Electronic and drone influences lend an angular sensibility to Atsuko Chiba’s prog rock sound and instrumentation, that can go from luxuriously psychedelic like opening track Sunbath and sink into gothic, trudging funeral march Seeds, with many inviting iterations between. Throughout, sounds unfold before us from a birds-eye view and are structured by deliberate layering and gradual progressions. Atsuko Chiba show us a worldview where meaning is made through amalgam.
The vocal performances on Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing are characterized by flat hierarchies. Voices bubble around and slide; maybe, they’re the voices of the mob or voices in our minds. Wherever they come from (it doesn’t matter) they’re playful, they’re melancholic, they overtake one another with a spontaneous sort of synchronicity. Voices dance with anarchic and spritely abandon across tracks like So Much For and it’s fantastic.
Single Link features that talk-singing style that’s all over the place in our current iteration of post-punk. While there is a rich tradition that can inform this choice, it doesn’t feel nearly as fun or original here as the vocal performances on every other track. This style is usually best executed over something sparse and punchy, and feels at odds with the core identity of this album which is lush and polyphonic.
The title track features a better version of this kind of talk-singing which is less post-punk, more Jim Morrison – almost flirtatious in delivery and over a jamming band that evolves into roaring synths and that signature cacophony of voices who stutter up to blooming and screaming guitar.
Water, It Feels Like It’s Growing is at once organic and alive, dense and technical. With it Atsuko Chiba propose an egalitarian politics grounded in play and experimentation.