Our first stop on the Polaris Prize short list was a 78 minute epic by Fucked Up. Our second album is considerably shorter; with a running time at 31 minutes Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s Yt/St is a far cry from a rock opera, but strangely enough the first work the band did together was a “drag rock opera” called 33. As someone who before the short list was announced had no idea who Yamantaka // Sonic Titan were, or even if that was their real name, and being as it seems no one else has either there isn’t much information on the group that describes themselves as “Noh-wave”. Based on the little information there is, the group has two distinct acts. The first is the rock band who was nominated for the Polaris Prize, and the second is the theatre group that works under the same name. In the internet age it’s rare that you aren’t able to find the information you want, but with this band it just seems as though we have to interpret the music and make guesses from there.
The album opens ominously with a rain in the background and tribal chants in the foreground. This transitions nicely into the catchiest song on the record, Queens, a slow paced rhythmic song that stands out from much of the rest. At this point we could continue going track by track, but really that’s not how this album should be listened to. As mentioned it is only 31 minutes long and split into 7 tracks there is really no reason why this shouldn’t be talked about as a whole. The Fucked Up album had to be split up due to its long story, but with this one there really isn’t a story. It’s more about the blending of styles, and the creation of sonic art as opposed to pop hits. Due to the lack of liner notes on iTunes and not having access anywhere to the lyrics I decided to just listen to the different textures and styles that they were using. They mix Japanese, Pop, Experimental, Native, and even Church elements into one huge field of sound, sort of showing what can be done and what no one is willing to try. If they win the Polaris Prize it won’t be because of their song writing; it will be because of how different and progressive this album is when compared to a field of less progressive albums.