Montreal by way of Toronto group Yamantaka // Sonic Titan is a musical chameleon. Formed around the nucleus of Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska B, it performs both as a travelling rock band and an art collective, and blends dreampop, psychedelica, krautrock, doom metal and Japanese theatrical tradition including Noh and kabuki into their stage-show. A short winter tour brought them to Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox to perform in front of a packed house.

The show opened with a brief set from Boyhood, the lo-fi bedroom recording project of Caylie Runciman, given extra muscle on stage by drumming brother Callum, White Wires bassist Luke Martin and a recent addition, second guitarist Alex Stankovic, from Callum’s other band, Grime Kings. Their chirp and fuzz brings bands such as early Blonde Redhead to mind, as well as more recent members of the lo-fi explosion such as Best Coast.

Then it was Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’s turn. Alaska B, who drums for the band, took the stage with a keyboardist and guitarist (the rock band enjoys a revolving cast) and warmed things up as Attwood and singer Ange Loft snaked their way through the crowd holding aloft a boxy black and white dragon puppet.

While Attwood favoured an oriental robe and Loft a studded leather jacket, the entire band was decked out in a combination of black and white with painted-faces - their nod to kabuki.

Then it was on to the first tune of the night, ‘Reverse Crystal/Murder of a Spider’, which has something of Pink Floyd’s post-Barrett sound to it with some incantatory vocals from Loft and Atwood added on. The band also brought out heavy duty crunchers like ‘A Star over Pureland’ (shades of Japan’s Friction) from their debut as well as poppier tunes such as the sparkling ‘Hoshi Neko’, which has a driving beat and J-pop style singing from Attwood. The band’s melange of influences brings to mind experimental bands such as Finland’s Circle (also big krautrock admirers), Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as operatic classic rockers like Queen. Wedged on Zaphod’s modest stage, the quintet couldn’t do much beside break out a few fans to wave around for one number. Nonetheless, Attwood’s poised stage demeanour made for an interesting contrast with Loft’s more extroverted stage moves.

Begged back to stage for an encore, they finished things off with ‘Hana Taiyo Ame’, a melodic 1970s song by Japanese post-Group Sounds supergroup PYG popularized by Boris on their ‘Smile’ album, a fitting closer for a band with a winning take on the mixture of east and west.

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan Set List:

Reverse Crystal/Murder of a Spider
Hall of Mirrors
Hoshi Neko
A Star over Pureland
Hana Taiyo Ame

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