PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan: UZU

Experimental art collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan combine musical and cultural concepts from their complex Asian, First Nation, and Canadian heritages. On UZU, they expand, refine and recast those ideas anew.


Yamantaka // Sonic Titan

UZU

Label: Paper Bag / Suicide Squeeze
US Release Date: 2013-10-29
UK Release Date: 2013-10-29
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Experimental art collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan combine musical and cultural concepts from their complex Asian, First Nation, and Canadian heritages with a Western base of psychedelic sludge and progressive rock. The band's 2011 debut, YT // ST, was largely successful, but the parts often mixed instead of melded. However, on the band's latest album, UZU, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan expand, refine and recast those ideas anew, and the result sounds like a true synthesis of their diasporic parts. In the process, they move from an interesting art project to a band to be reckoned with.

One step in that process was to move from the distorted production of the debut to the brightness and clarity captured on UZU. This achieves two things. First, it highlights the newfound confidence and power of singer Ruby Kato Attwood, who proves not only her vocal strength but her ability to carry a song when the spotlight shines brightly upon her. Second, it allows for the inventive percussion of Alaska B to be heard to full effect; as the murk recedes the subtlest of fills and lightest touch of cymbals rise to the ear. This recording ably captures the core dynamic -- the pairing of soprano and eclectic drumming, both in apposition and opposition -- that is the heart of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan's sound.

That dualism is also seen in the sequencing and mix of the album. It is presented as two continuous sides, allowing for each suite of songs to build and comment on the preceding piece. For example, "Whalesong" trails off with the piano line from "Atalanta" fading into the rise of synthesized waves and what sounds like a modulated tolling chime; these immediately begin to distort and build into the slow fuzz guitar and thick bass of "Lamia", while Alaska B starts a syncopated beat beneath those synthesized waves. This in its turn folds and falls into the looping high synth and rising shuffle on the cymbals that open "Windflower". On both sides of the album, the connective tissue helps less show-stopping tracks add to the overall appeal without being lost.

And a song like side one closer "Hall of Mirrors" would bury them without that connection. A distillation of all the sounds explored thus far, "Hall of Mirrors" contains the expected syncopated drumming, distorted synth, fuzz guitar, and Attwood's bright soprano. However, when Ange Loft's strong rapping bursts on the scene the new voice is a shock, as no hint of this was present before; the jarring force is married to what can only be described as '70s horror movie keyboards and machine gun drumming, and the result is a change in what possibilities the band contains. This isn't just a side closer but a statement of future intent. Prepare to be unprepared.

Yet nothing is as jarring, nor as fitting, as the pairing of "Bring Me the Hand of Bloody Benzaiten" and "One". The former is the most traditionally Asian sounding piece on the record, with taiko drums and tuned gongs melting and flowing as befits the goddess of water, words, and music. Benzaiten is also one of the most syncretic of Hindu deities, worshipped and adapted to both Buddhism and Shinto faiths. And syncretism is at the core of "One", perhaps the most ambitious, successful, and powerful melding of the many disparate ideas that compose the ethos of Yamnataka // Sonic Titan. "One" begins with a traditional Iroquois song performed by members of the Mohawk tribe before turning into a driving rock song propelled once again by Alaska B's drumming, while Attwood sings lyrics that question the cultural identities people take for granted.

UZO is not a perfect record. There are distinctly lesser tracks, and though they work within the album they don't hold strong in the memory. What hold are the songs that feel entirely theirs, where the cultural references fuse into a new alloy hitherto unknown. 

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.