Yamantaka // Sonic Titan @ Fortune -- 06/20/14

It's that time of year again, the Vancouver International Jazz Fest descends upon the city with hundreds of bands across dozens of venues around the town, both free and ticketed shows. And the first night kicked off with I band I have been wanting to see for a couple years now, but have always eluded me. Fresh off their Polaris Prize Long List nomination for their new album Uzu, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan.

The opening act was Vancouver's Sun Killer. Their instrumental jazzy songs flowed and weaved through the set as the venue filled. Being an instrumental band, there was no vocal mic on stage, so when guitarist Tom Wherrett talked between songs or introduced the band, it was unamplified and a bit weird. But the songs themselves were pretty engaging, and they were an interesting opening act.

It wasn't long after before Yamantaka // Sonic Titan hit the stage, and right off the bat, their whole set screamed "theatrical". From the costumes and the kabuki facepaint to the lighting and smoke, their flair for the dramatics was apparent, which fit perfectly with their self-described "noh-wave" art rock.

They hardly said a thing through the set, instead letting the music speak for itself. The soaring songs were driven by Ruby Kato Attwood's strong vocals, which were backed up by drummer Alaska B, and Ange Loft's almost entirely wordless vocals, her amazingly powerful voice filling the room even when she was off the microphone.

They opened with "Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider", a cacophonous opening leading into an intense song, which gave way to a set focused mostly on their new album Uzu. Highlights included "Atalanta", which lead into a song that would be perfect as a soundtrack for an epic cinematic battle, "Whalesong", as Attwood danced with some fans (literal fans, not audience members), and "Hall of Mirrors", that included an eerie & haunting almost spoken work interlude from Loft, and was punctuated with Alaska B's drumming so intense it pulsated through your chest.

After the raging "One" from the new album, they closed out with "Hoshi Neko" off their self-titled debut, building to a chaotic climax of intense noise, to end off an a simple incredible set. I had heard many great things about their live shows, and they lived up to every expectation. I can't wait until they inevitably grow out of the smaller, club venues, as they would sound so amazing playing larger, theatrical venues.

Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider, Queens, Lamia, Windflower, Hall of Mirrors, Atalanta, Whalesong, A Star Over Pureland, One, Hoshi Neko.