There’s a lot to like about arty Canadian two-piece Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, even without hearing a single note. The group’s core members—vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood and drummer Alaska B—are striking, and their vision for this project is refreshingly laser-focused: The kabuki face paint, costumes, elaborate stage shows and an ancestral narrative.
What began as an art project that set out to dig deeper into their Asian heritage (Attwood is of Japanese descent, Alaska B of Chinese) has turned into a full-on prog band. On their 2011 self-titled debut YT//ST unleashed a flood of sounds—metal, prog, psych pop and post-punk—into taut, mini-epics they cleverly dubbed “noh wave” (Noh is a form of 14th century Japanese musical drama).
On UZU, the band continues to twist styles into something epic and otherworldly. This time around, Attwood’s vocals aren’t lurking beneath the fuzz. In fact, they almost become the centerpiece to these 10 nervy space oddities. As with their debut, the songs fade in and out of one another, adding to the interstellar voyage. Opener “Atalanta” is pitch black in mood, with only piano and Attwood’s voice providing any flicker of light. That fades into “Whalesong,” whose metal riff and busy drums keep things more technicolor hued than brightly epic. “Hall of Mirrors” comes as close to Italian prog band Goblin than anything, both eerie and stunning. And first single “One” is the record’s heaviest track, with its tribal vocals and a heavy bass riff that throbs throughout. It’s the song that best represents the band’s sound and concept.
The beauty of YT//ST is that they fully support own their vision, which is simultaneously fantastical and factual. And they’ve got the songs and chops to back it up. UZU is stunning and melodic, and consistently absorbing. The only thing better than listening through headphones in a dark room is to experience the band in the flesh. Seeing is believing. One thing is certain—it’s been a while since anything like this has come around.