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Yamantaka // Sonic Titan 

Heavy metal meets high art with spiritual results

click to enlarge Art and metal meet with YT // ST.
  • Art and metal meet with YT // ST.

w/INSTRUMENTS

Friday, October 19, St. Matthew's Church, 1479 Barrington Street, 8pm, $25

The Yamantaka // Sonic Titan story begins in much the same way it continues today: in the shared space between music and art.

"The first time I met Alaska, we were in art school, in this interdisciplinary class, and she had built this really bizarre instrument out of a megaphone and a bunch of wires and some strings and stuff," explains Ruby Kato Attwood, lead singer, co-founder and co-director of YT//ST.

"She presented to the class and they were like, 'Is it a sculpture? What is this thing? What does it do?' I just walked over and started playing it, and it sounded amazing. So from there, we just started making this hybrid art form."

Attwood and Alaska B have been performing their artistic fusion in Montreal and Toronto for some time, but this past year it's the musical side of the project that's taken off, thanks to the word-of-mouth success of their self-titled debut album.

Wearing the moniker "noh-wave"---a reference to the Japanese musical drama form that's a major influence---YT//ST is a multi-headed beast of a record, meshing metal, psychedelica and rock opera into a fusion that's global in sound, epic in scope and heavy as all hell.

The Polaris-shortlisted album is also the soundtrack to a full-length performance opera called Star that YT//ST is developing. The duo already has one rock opera under its belt, a spin on the classic leader/disciple betrayal (think Jesus/Judah, or Buddha/Devadatta) called 33, staged for both Pop Montreal and Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre earlier this year.

"I always thought it was strange to divide the streams, to separate music and art," says Attwood, on the phone from Montreal. "All my favourite bands, in a way, were really arty, like Devo, Genesis P-Orridge, different groups like that---even something like Kiss or whatever---and also artists who work a lot with music and sound, like Janet Curtis and Matthew Barney."

Accordingly, YT//ST's live performances fuse theatre and rock performance, incorporating handcrafted props, Kabuki makeup, elaborate costumes and more.

"I think, for us, trying to access that kind of psychic space with an audience is the largest reward of having a bigger audience. It's like more psychic power in that relationship, and it's completely fascinating to see groups of people partaking in this cultural phenomenon. It can be very chaotic, but it's also very ritualized, and I really like that tension."

As she riffs on Buddhist teachings and Greek ideas about the connection between music and astrology, it's clear that Attwood is keen to work whole swaths of ideas into YT//ST---even as she focuses on putting on a killer rock show as well.

"I don't know if people go to shows to ever think of spiritual things, and I'm certainly not trying to push my beliefs on anybody. To me, it's more a display of my own struggle with the concept of my life and its meaning, and existence through time: how we tolerate it, how we endure these questions over and over again."

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan w/INSTRUMENTS Friday, October 19, St. Matthew’s Church, 1479 Barrington Street, 8pm, $25

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