Yamantaka // Sonic Titan at The Garrison, Toronto – Concert review + sketch

January 20, 2013
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Yamantaka // Sonic Titan sketch drawing by Natascha Malta, MusicVice.com

The Gig: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Where: The Garrison, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: Friday 18 January 2013
In One Word: Synesthetic

It is possible to be still, and at the same time project a lot of energy. Ruby Kato Attwood stands before us, attired like a gothic Madonna, arms outstretched like a healer. She does not move as she commences the psychedelic opera, but her form shakes with powerful magic. She does not have a mouth, but a portal to an unearthly place where the gods are prone to rages.

In Buddhism, Yamantaka is the practice of terminating death by journeying to enlightenment- which is appropriate because this music is definitely provokes psychic exploration. But this is not your mother & father’s hippy music. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s (YT//ST)’s psychedelia carries a dark blade from wandering through time to this unfriendly future. Instruments are also weapons, as capable of issuing heavy metal walls of sound and furious punk riffs as they are at charming. YT//ST conjures an earthly connection through potent native chanting and drumming- but also gives the sense that the earthly gods are angry with us (perhaps, for squandering nature’s wealth). Thus they’ve unleashed their titans to punish us, and the opera continues. This is what is feels like to experience Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Like listening to the voice of this time, speaking in many tongues.

This is where the band’s background as an arts collective is a serious asset. One of the characteristics of a successful piece of visual art is the ability to create the feeling of a real space, where really there is none because an image is 2D. Essentially, an artwork is successful when it creates an imaginary space so real that it spills out of the image, (or in this case the song), and drags the viewer along for the ride. In this sense, YT//ST are not only extremely good at what they do, but are somewhat of a musical rarity. You just don’t often see this type of conceptual work going into a musical performance and it’s even more rare that conceptualism is so well pulled off in music. The band has a very good handle on using different types of sounds and styles of music (they reference everything from Jpop, to opera, to surf rock, to metal, to native chanting) to evoke very powerful emotions and images in the listener. Also impressive was the band’s attention to costume, and how costume and movement can really set the tone to transform the ordinary. Each of the band members sported a mask of white and black, tribal patterned face paint — and Ruby’s billowing, black costume was the perfect accessory for a voice too incredibly large for a mere mortal. (That goes double for the chanting Ange Loft).

Overall, I think that experiencing YT//ST must be what synesthesia feels like. There is no difference between the music and the imagery that it arouses. I felt the angry earth, the mighty sea, the swallowing darkness, and their priestesses. This is the awe and fear that religion promised us. Oh, and let it not go unsaid that these musicians have real musical chops, as well as being conceptually very pleasing.

© Natascha Malta, Music Vice

Internet link:
YT // ST

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