by Tiana Feng
Release Date: October 29th, 2013
Label: Paperbag Records
After their Polaris short-listed debut YT//ST, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan have returned with Uzu. If you thought their debut was a bit too weird for your tastes, Uzu may change your mind.
They’ve become a little bit more accessible by paying careful attention to melodies and moving their prog-rock forms along in a manner like a smooth mini rock-opera. Everything transitions well into each other. The innocent choiresque solo of Ruby Kato Attwood begins Uzu with “Atalanta”. The following “Whalesong” brings in the heavy metal style guitars that find themselves throughout the rest of the album.
Instrumentally, they bring from Japan instruments as well as dramatic prog-rock styles from bands like X-Japan (who I totally saw in Toronto a few years ago). “Bring Me the Hand of Bloody Benzaiten”‘s drama is elevated by the combination of gongs, timpani and Japanese Taiko drumming. In “Windflower” Attwood’s sweet, yet eerie melody is put against a manic synth line.
When you think you have them figured out they always throw something different at you, like the fast-talking “Hall of Mirrors” or the beautiful tune “Seasickness Pt.1” which strikes with a chilling loneliness both musically and lyrically. Waves hit the shore in the background and you can almost feel an imaginary wind.
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan saved the best for last. “Saturn’s Return” delicately shows off the band’s ability to write beautiful poetry:“memories made long ago, remind me of their undertow / a sea of trees is ablaze, white horses racing to carry me home / where nothing is tender, the sour surrender”. All this becomes noise which fades back to wind in the end.
If there’s one thing to take away from Uzu, it’s that Yamantaka // Sonic Titan isn’t a one-trick-pony. They’ll definitely be up again for next year’s Polaris Prize. Uzu‘s definitely one opera where you’ll be returning for an encore performance.