Thursday, October 24th, 2013
Review of Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s Uzu
Derek BelchanIf you thought that unclassifiable Montreal-Toronto outfit Yamantaka//Sonic Titan would have difficulty following up their utterly 2011 debut YT//ST, that their blend of prog-rock, Japanese opera, and metal amongst many other influences would inevitably turn from unique to self-parody, or that the pressure of going from obscurity to 2012 Polaris Prize shortlister would paralyze them creatively, then you don’t need to look up what Uzu – the title of their second album due out on October 29, means – it means “you are dead wrong”.
Even as an avowed fan of the band, I wasn’t sure how they’d follow up YT//ST, so singular a work that it seemed to be, but clearly Yamantaka//Sonic Titan had no such reservations. Whereas much of the excitement of YT//ST came from the primal, alchemical reactions of bringing their disparate elements and ideas together, Uzu intricately crafts them all together with a much more assured hand – rather than melding all those styles together, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan now sound like they’ve created their own. And remarkably, that’s not even what stands out the most about Uzu – that would be how much better they’ve gotten at sounding conventional.
Lead track “Atalanta” opens with a classical piano figure that is quickly joined by Ruby Kato Attwood singing a plaintive and achingly pretty melody. It’s the sort of move that a band determined to hold onto the “experimental” adjective might eschew as too straight, too accessible, but which too Yamantaka is clearly just the right thing to do for the song. The greater emphasis on melody and straight emotion persists through the record and gives Uzu a heart that YT//ST might have possessed, but kept in the background. The two-part “Seasickness” is the best example of how far they’ve come, with the first part emphasizing the austere beauty of the approach and the second demonstrating how well it meshes with their established sound. What this all means is that those who liked Yamantaka before because they were weird will continue to like them because their weird, but those who found them too weird before may well now find them to be sufficiently more accessible to be won over. What this all means is that with Uzu, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan may now be unstoppable.
Pitchfork has an advance stream of the album. They play The Garrison on November 6.
Video: The Belle Game -”River”
Your latest Arcade Fire inevitability updates: Pitchfork has a lyric video for the next officially-released preview, NPR will host a live concert showcasing Reflektor before its release the next day, and both Rolling Stone and Macleans have interviews with Win Butler about the new album, The National Post with Will Butler, and Radio Free Canuckistan throwing in Q&As with Richard Reed Parry and Tim Kingsbury for good measure. Update: And yeah now you can stream the album in whole.
Video: Kashka – “Never Had It”
Neil Young continues to make his fans easy to Christmas shop for via his Archives series; Consequence Of Sound reports that he’ll release Live At The Cellar Door, capturing a 1970 residency in Washington DC, on November 26.
Death From Above 1979 want some of your Boxing Day spending money, having just announced a show at The Danforth Music Hall for December 26. Tickets will run between $33.50 and $39.50.
Shad explains some of the stories behind the lyrics on Flying Colours to The Grid and also talks to JAM, The Huffington Post, The Edmonton Journal, The Coast, and The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. He’ll be back in town to perform it at The Danforth Music Hall on January 31.