Music Reviews

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan UZU

(Paper Bag) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

The duo of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, made up of Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood, compose intricate rock suites that embrace dramatic excess without losing site of where the limit should be drawn. Some corners have called it prog-rock because it revels in a grand, sweeping narrative, moments of unbridled release that far too often clash as if in an armed battle between the forces of light and darkness. There is certainly a conceptual arc throughout UZU that contains some of the usual suspects, tranquil piano interludes and shuffling triad progressions, making for an operatic piece that is well-rounded in a musical sense rather than a thematic one. If there’s a storyline to be hand, then we can only hint at it by way of its timed sequencing - transitory moments of peaks and troughs that can be incredibly effective if you submerge to it in one sitting. 

It starts calmly with Atalanta, carried by the elegance of a grand piano and the potent vocal delivery of Attwood. Those sparse piano strokes ascend in complete surrender once it segues into Whalesong, a fiery number that alludes to the feral intensity of heavy metal with its pompous riffing and the brisk technicality of Alaska B’s consistent drum patterns. It barely gasps for breath as it transitions into album highlight Lamia, a four-minute scorcher that takes an esoteric turn by balancing chunky stoner riffs whittled with dreamy effects to give Attwood’s vocals a mystifying translucence. Nevertheless, their need to overstate things can get the best of them, like in Hall of Mirrors, which employs awkward sing-rap verses (describing the spider as a source of menace; cue laughable allusions in the same vein of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Glass and the Ghost Children) and dramatic inflections whilst whipping a plethora of arpeggiated prog parts that never rise beyond mere pastiche. 

But Yamantaka // Sonic Titan refuse to be so easily classified, and they proudly boast their versatility with One, which starts off with a lucid Iroquois chant before it breaks into a multidimensional display of stimulating guitar lines and propulsive rock rhythms. It begs to question whether the duo operate best when they’re at their most ambitious, and even if there’s a sense of completion throughout UZU it does strip the focused simplicity of their self-titled; how their debut managed to concoct one full suite without turning itself inside-out was far more daring, managing to mix the theatrical with seedy undertones under a blanket of bliss. UZU is further indication that Yamantaka // Sonic Titan aim to get bigger, but hopefully they don’t forget that coherence suits them well.