Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Oct 28, 2013 Web Exclusive
Not too many groups effectively infuse heavy music with high/low art collisions, pan-ethnic anthropological celebrations, operatic inclinations, and theatricality bordering on cartoonishness, but Yamantaka // Sonic Titan do it almost effortlessly, placing the whole mess in a sort of sonic dreamscape.
UZU's the album equivalent of a creepy music box in an art (or horror) vignette, alone in a room, spinning, come to life. Dreams. Nightmares. Whales. 16th century Chinese myths. Mazu, goddess of the sea. It's an art-rock opera, songs flowing together with vague narrative, ripe with melodrama, and more than a hint of heavy metal's suspension of disbelief demanded of each listener.
The band revealed "One" early on, and it's a shining example of what they can do: heavy, surreal, and unrepentantly psychedelic. It opens with an Iroquois chant, slips into sleek guitar pop verses, boasts a chorus turnaround that makes you want to punch a wall, and eventually explodes in a mishmash of rapidly panning noise.
The churning art-prog of "Whalesong," with its tom-heavy drum approach and strident melodicism, brings Angeldust-vintage Faith No More to mind before exploding with psychedelic opera notes. Speaking of those toms, YT // ST's drum production deserves specific mention, jumping from distant room mics to a minimal, up-front, hypercompressed treatment. Drummer Alaska B's snare sound is willfully unique (or she just broke all her snares), and it's as much a part of the group's sound as Ruby Kato Attwood's monster vocal range.
"Hall of Mirrors" is another highlight, plodding along dreamily, all drums and drama before Attwood takes a sort of rap verse. The chorus that follows absolutely erupts, all double kick drum and ecstatic intensity. It toes a common YT // ST line—metal, but not metal at all, really. Scratch-your-head heavy music.
"Windflower" drifts along on speedy keyboard arpeggios and extra measures, coming off perhaps like avant '80s neo-prog from Art Bears, Thinking Plague, or other progenitors of stubborn, oddball sonics and structure—these groups are also part of the formula here, most certainly, whether that's a coincidence or not. YT // ST always leave you grasping for those touchstones, because frankly nobody sounds like this. They've dreamed up a whole world for their music, practically. It's a fantasy, a dream. On "Seasickness Pt. 1" Attwood asks, "Where do I go when I sleep?" Band practice, no doubt. (www.ytstlabs.com)
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