Live in Portland April 9, 2018 | Doug Fir
Toronto’s Yamantaka // Sonic Titan are probably the only Noh Wave band in the world. Or, at least, they’re the only band to pin the namesake firmly to their collar. The cheeky self-labeling is a reference to their highly theatrical stage shows, which draw on the traditions of Japanese classic theater when it comes to costuming and makeup. But also, the multiracial and multicultural collective, part band, part multimedia project, throws so much into the crock pot it’d be exhausting to try to pin them down as anything else. Throw together melodramatic anime and J-pop, tricky prog, and a slow, heavy wall of sound that could bring a mountain to its knees and you have got an idea of where to begin. YT//ST are an ongoing exploration of Asian-Canadian and First Nation identity set to a backdrop of epic and surreal widescreen imagery; the collective has encompassed dancers and visual artists. Their third outing for Toronto’s Paper Bag, Dirt, came out March 23 and shows the arty rockers in fine form.
Like YT//ST’s self-titled debut and its follow-up Uzu, their latest record Dirt mines a unique vibe in heavy, proggy rock. Funny that the band seems so close in vision to its first incarnation, considering that Alaska B is the sole original member left. His thunderous drums drive the group’s percussive, textural sound. Coldly beautiful, gazey moments like “The Decay” contrast pretty starkly with rambunctious freakouts like “Yandere.” New singer Joanna Delos Reyes can turn from a gossamer voice drifting in an ethereal soundscape to a sword-wielding badass on a mission, just like that. The cover art speaks to that sensibility, as playful and dead serious as any Studio Ghibli adventure. It isn’t all fantasy, though—the album concludes with the incisive “Out of Time,” its pointed lyrics directed squarely at the agents of division and violence getting too comfy lately (Ottawa and a dozen other Canadian cities saw widespread rallies against U.S. gun violence recently). Check out this ferocious rock monster at the Doug Fir lounge April 9.