YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN are ending the year with yet another example of why they are one of the most dynamic and genre defying bands in the world right now.
The band has released their new video for the song “Saturn’s Return,” the closing track from this year’s critically acclaimed UZU, out now on Suicide Squeeze Records in the US and Paper Bag Records in Canada.
Fader premiered their new video, writing “Against a moody, rock opera-worthy piano backdrop, Ruby Kato Attwood channels her chromatic soprano.” The video is co-directed by Kato Attwood and filmmaker Derrick Belcham, which Fader continue to describe as “using chemicals, housewares, toys and other quotidian materials to create the pretty convincing illusion that we’re looking at stars and planets.”
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN were included in Wired.com‘s year end round-up, hailing the band for making “some of the most inventive, fascinating music out there right now, music that’s as arena-ready as any major chart-pop act and about a hundred times as urgent: think prog-metal, operatic Arcade Fire with a dead-serious bone to pick.”
The band will be touring North America next year with dates being announced in early 2014.
The rock opera generally references the ambitious and occasionally bloated concept albums of seasoned big name artists. Rarely is it used to conjure a Pynchon-worthy fusion of high and low culture or a blurring of the lines between theater and music. But in the case of Toronto/Montreal art partnership YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN, rock opera carries all the latter connotations of the nexus between tradition and irreverence, performance art and unbridled noise. The duality of fusing Old World classicism with New World innovation goes to the very core of the groupâ€”their name is a melding of the Buddhist â€œterminator of deathâ€ deity with a song title by seminal stoner doom band Sleep. They describe themselves as â€œNoh-waveâ€, a nod to both classical Japanese drama and the nihilistic art-punk scene of a pre-Giuliani New York City.
The yin-and-yang philosophy permeates every facet of YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN. The project centers around Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood, two art students with a mutual love of opposing forcesâ€”heavy metalâ€™s brutish assault with Japanese mangaâ€™s cartoonish appeal, Boredomâ€™s experimentalism with Chinese opera, lofty schemes and low budget endeavors. The duo started out by building instruments out of found objectsâ€”once again highlighting their paradoxical nature by turning trash into art and rendering structured beauty out of detritus. Their performances veered more towards theater, with Alaska and Ruby constructing elaborate stage settings out of cardboard pasted with industrial-sized Xeroxed designs and donning elaborate Kabuki-style costumes and make-up. Such unorthodox ventures could repel the rock crowd, but YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITANâ€™s debut album YT//ST dispelled any concerns that Alaska and Ruby didnâ€™t know how to lay siege with their instruments. Anchored by Alaskaâ€™s unrepentant drummingâ€”a blend of Melvins drummer Dale Croverâ€™s signature stomp and Einsturzende Neubautenâ€™s proto-industrial thudâ€”and Rubyâ€™s soaring soprano, YT//ST took the narrative arc and keyboard foundation of Genesisâ€™ rock opera The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and injected the psychedelic doom of Borisâ€™ Pink.
With their sophomore effort UZU, Alaska and Ruby continue their exploration of cultural dualities. While YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN has always provided an outlet for the core duoâ€™s celebration of their Asian heritage, the inclusion of auxiliary musicians and artists into the fold has reinforced one of the most crucial defining dualities of the group: the merging of diasporic and indigenous perspectives. This meeting of East and West is perhaps most visible in UZUâ€™s lead single â€œOneâ€. As the first YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN song to extend the songwriting credits beyond the core duo, â€œOneâ€ incorporates the indigenous upbringings of the extended group by leading off with a traditional Iroquois song. The introductory chant is a social song calling all people together, and is performed by people of the Mohawk tribe. From there, the band kicks into a driving guitar line and a vocal hook as sweet as any J-pop hit. Metal riffing, free-jazz cacophony, and meditative Eastern percussion patterns accentuate the song. In the hands of lesser visionaries, this kind of cross-pollination would sound like a schizophrenic genre mash-up. But YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITANâ€™s appropriations never sound forced. Rather, it sounds like a celebration of the cultural collision of Alaska and Rubyâ€™s upbringing. The hybridization is evident throughout UZU–you can hear it in the operatic piano-and-vocal opener â€œAtalantaâ€ segueing into the dynamic prog of â€œWhalesongâ€, the Eastern melodies seamlessly melding into the synth arpeggio and guitar dirge of â€œWindflowerâ€, the musical storytelling tradition of â€œSeasickness Pt. 1â€ juxtaposing with the Heart-like classic rock gallop of â€œSeasickness Pt. 2â€, and the closing choir passage of â€œSaturnâ€™s Returnâ€ descending into Merzbow-esque white noise.
It is safe to say there is no other band like YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN on the planet. In a world that is increasingly homogenized, a record like UZU is all the more important for demonstrating how disparate cultural perspectives can merge into something entirely new while retaining their individual sovereign character. UZU is now available on CD/LP and digital formats in the United States via Suicide Squeeze Records. The LP version contains a free download of the album and the first 500 copies are pressed on grey vinyl.