Words About Music
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan “UZU”
What happens when you mix the prog-rock intensity of The Mars Volta, the tribal element of Goat, the female energy of Sleigh Bells, the stoner metal riffs of Electric Wizard, and the theatrics of Ghost? You get something like the Canadian art rock group Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, not to be confused with Boredoms lead vocalist and Japanese noise rock legend Yamantaka Eye. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan (sometimes abbreviated, thankfully, as YT//ST) formed in 2007 with performance artists Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood being the geniuses behind the group’s work. They crafted rock operas that reflected their combined Asian culture, and in 2011 released their self-titled debut album, which received great reviews. YT//ST have expanded their lineup since forming, and it shows on their sophomore LP “UZU,” which is a well-crafted hell-ride of heavy progressive rock storytelling that meddles in the avant-garde and the accessible simultaneously.
Like many of bands that dabble in performance art, YT//ST are usually seen with face paint on. They also use a ton of theatrics in their bizarre live performances, which translates extremely well in album form. This isn’t the weirdest or most difficult album I’ve ever heard, but it’s odd enough to make me think. The album itself is more about textures and sounds than it is about lyrics, although supposedly this is a concept album like the first album was. What sticks out about “UZU” is how well produced it is. The bass, the piano, the drums, the guitar, the vocals; every possible instrument just sounds exactly like it should on this type of record.
The more I listen to “UZU,” the more increasingly obvious it becomes that this band specializes in the visual aspect of artwork. Not that that takes away from the music itself of course, which rarely falls short of brilliant. In a post-Mars Volta world, bands like this are starting to see that the music doesn’t need to be so over-the-top insane to classify as interesting progressive rock. YT//ST is much more groovy than predecessors like Tool and …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead that basically pride themselves on one form of ostentation or another. “UZU” prides itself on being somewhat simplistic and lyrically haunting.
Although I haven’t quite figured out what “UZU” is supposed to be about, I can tell it’s not really about a completely happy topic. At times I even think that the album takes place in outer space, which wouldn’t surprise me at all. Overall, “UZU” is an interesting record that is never too over-the-top. The doom-riffs are slight, the lyrics sometimes inaudible, and the mood itself is sometimes hard to capture, but that’s the point really. I imagine “UZU” is an album that’s supposed to keep the listener guessing and questioning, and it does a great job of that. It’s surprisingly listenable and accessible but still different, which keeps it approachable and not pretentious. So give this a listen if you’re looking for progressive rock music that won’t make you say “Ugh,” because this is no Dream Theater record. It’s a dreamlike record straight out of a theater.
SCORE – 8.0
FAVORITE TRACKS – Whalesong, Lamia, Windflower, Hall of Mirrors, Seasickness Pt1, Seasickness Pt2, One, Saturn’s Return