Let’s not kid anyone here. The name Yamantaka, a Hindu god, translates from Sanskrit as “the terminator of death.” The Sonic Titan part should be pretty self-explanatory—for a meager duo of namely Alaska B (drums) and Ruby Kato Attwood (vocals), Yamantaka // Sonic Titan makes plenty of noise. Noise in both the proggy turn-it-up-to-11 sense, but also in the deluge of homemade instruments, arty execution and wanton maniacal drumming. Their semi-self-titled debut, YT//ST, and the band’s Noh-esque make-uped live performances were as heavily influenced by Alaska and Ruby’s Asian heritage as they were by the DIY noise scenes of their Canadian hometowns of Toronto and Montreal. UZU, the band’s second full-length, finds the post-punk section taking center stage, but it never encroaches too far on the band’s quirky take on modern art-punk.
Their now well-known theatrical performance is palpable even on record, most notably on the bookend songs Atlanta and Saturn’s Return, a foreboding wintry warning and one of the album’s best. Both pieces are piano-driven ballads-come-goose-prickling dirges humming from the cloisters and punctuated by the chilly air of Ruby’s soprano.
Where their debut was almost exclusively performed by the duo, this time Alaska and Ruby have included additional musicians. And not just during their over-the-top live performances: they share writing credit on UZU as well. A notable example of such is the penultimate track, One, a joyfully clamoring chant sticky with YT // ST’s buzzing rock guitars and wild drums that includes a traditional Iroquois song of togetherness, performed on the album by Mohawk singers.
YT // ST is not subtle, yet it’s still simultaneously visceral and generally accessible, while maintaining its unique voice. UZU is many things—a bastardized mash-up of Phantom Of The Opera and bonfire pagan prayers, a deluge of piano dirges, resounding gongs and Noh storytellers, and a New Orleans funeral on the River Styx. And yet even with such culturally disparate influences, it blends into a coherent album of impending psychedelic doom.