Artist: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Album Title: YT//ST
Released: October 1, 2011 (re-released July 16th, 2013)
Label: Suicide Squeeze Records
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan is one of the very few bands that seems to have sprung up fully formed. With their debut album, YT//ST, re-released here in the States this summer, the band blends dreamy, psychedelic experimentation with earthy hard rock like seasoned veterans. The group is spearheaded by two Asian-Canadian women, Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska B, on vocals and drums, respectively, along with a host of collaborators. The album is gloriously noisy, peppered throughout with a melange of sounds, yet Attwood and Alaska B’s contributions are the clear highlights of YT//ST; Attwood’s vocals soar over the miasma of fuzzed-out guitars and shimmering keyboards, taking the songs to greater and greater heights as the album progresses, while Alaska B’s drumming, powerful yet fluid, keeps the band firmly anchored.
Musically and thematically, YT//ST gleefully explores multicultural identity. Attwood and Alaska B borrow openly from Japanese and American music (the band’s name references both Japanese noise-rock heroes Boredoms and the influential California doom trio Sleep), blending the two effortlessly. Many songs on the album pay tribute to Japan’s strong tradition of experimentation: the dreamy haze of “Oak of Guernica” recalls experimental metal trio Boris’s forays into shoegaze, while the relentlessly catchy “Hoshi Neko,” a clear standout, is sung entirely in Japanese. Meanwhile, references to American prog and doom metal balance the band’s experimentation with a pleasing hard rock sensibility, as demonstrated by the searing guitar riffs of “Queens” and “Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider.” As overt as these touchstones may be, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan make them their own by integrating them into their own progressive and distinctly theatrical sensibility. The album, recorded and mixed by Alaska B, is also startlingly well-produced, especially for a debut album. The plethora of instruments and ambient sound effects that adorn each song envelope the listener rather than overwhelm, and Alaska B’s drums have all the warmth and immediacy of a classic Zeppelin record.
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan is one of the most strikingly original bands to emerge recently, and their debut album is both immediately welcoming and deep enough to merit many repeated listenings. With their sophomore album set to be released this October, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan will almost certainly make waves throughout the underground music world.
Review by John McAlmon