Review Summary: "Noh-Wave", experimental, diasporic artists reinventing the foundation of rock-n'-roll
It's immediately apparent the personalities we're dealing with upon review of the YT//ST website, dubbed "Yamantaka // Sonic Titan Research Labs". YT//ST isn't just a band; they represent an artistic movement dedicated to not only an amalgam of genres that hasn't really been done before, but also an exploration of art and cultural history by way of musical interpretation. Of course it sounds a bit ridiculous and maybe pretentious, but it's partially supposed to appear so. YT//ST represent a breed of artist ferociously dedicated to, well, art.
as a record is incapable of conveying the visual stimuli that the group is known for at their live or theater performances. The "2.5D" monochromatic, mangaesque set designs may not be physically capable of instantaneous materialization. But musically, the self-titled debut is quite possibly (!!HYPERBOLE ALERT!!) one of the most ground-breaking rock records ever made, dripping emotion from every note and conviction through every chord. Effectively channeling influences from all over the map, the duo shift seamlessly between a prog-rock melange of Boris-influenced noise rock, Boredoms-esque spastic experimentation, and modern psychedelia. Rhythmically, they are complex and tight, but the main draw of YT//ST
is its uncanny ability to ebb and flow (much like the incredible cover art, if you stare long enough...); "Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider" evolves from feedback and noise through some seriously epic guitar-driven rock and finally to a transitional psychedelic jam that seemingly never ends in its tension crescendo.
But the most truly breathtaking moment here is easy to pinpoint on first listen - within the four minute and forty-three second confines of "Hoshi Neko", Yamantaka // Sonic Titan establish themselves as master songwriters. The lo-fi intro nearly plays speaker trickery, but is the perfect precursor to the epic, catchy, heavy, and simultaneously delicate performance to come. Vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood gives the most emotive performance I've heard in at least a few years, while apparently singing in nearly incomprehensible, broken Japanese. Had I not read this in an interview, I'd be none the wiser, as her delivery is truly heart-wrenching. This perfectly exemplifies the entire point of YT//ST as a collective: to go outside of the typical western comfort zone and experience their cultural heritage through art and song. Even attempting such a performance in the native tongue of one's ancestors is an honor; succeeding is a triumph. Unfortunately, "Hoshi Neko" overshadows the almost equally-as-excellent noise rock experimentation of "A Star Over Pureland" (this bleeds
John Zorn) and the extended prog/tribal jam of "Crystal Fortress Over the Sea of Trees". Ultimately, the record implodes with a final subdued tribal chant, tying together the very essence of this seven-track-long cultural exploration.
It's a rare thing when new talent like this arises, hopefully YT//ST continues to hone their self-dubbed "Noh-Wave" movement (a creative pun combining the Japanese form of musical drama and the musical genre). At this point, it's no stretch of the imagination that the group is easily capable of putting out a truly classic record; I haven't been this excited for a band in a long fu
cking time. YT//ST, if you're reading this, color this reviewer impressed, and sorry I'm almost two years late to the party.