YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN have been described as “A psychedelic noh-wave opera group fusing noise, metal, pop and folk music into a multidisciplinary hyper-orientalist cesspool of ‘eastern’ culture in giant monochrome paper sets.” The Canadian group, which maintains an ever-changing cast (with backgrounds such as painting, philosophy, theatre, social sciences, studio arts, and intermedia cyberarts, among others…), works in the mediums of Installation, Theater, Music, Video, Animation, Illustration, and Design. Last year YT//ST finished their first full-length opera and released their first LP, YT//ST, on Psychic Handshake. Their aesthetic is equally indebted to punk, classical mythology, 1960s avant-garde rock, traditional eastern theatrics, and manga. They’re currently coming to the end of a US tour (most of which has had them playing the support slot for Xiu Xiu) and will find themselves in Philadelphia, performing a headlining gig at Kung Fu Necktie on Tuesday, June 12th, which is sounding like it just might be the most exciting musical performance the city sees all summer… Well, after Refused.
At the core of YT//ST is alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood. I recently got a chance to chat with Ruby about the band’s background, their current tour, and just what they have planned for the rest of 2012, which is already sounding like it might be slightly over-booked. alaska and Ruby met while studying the arts at Concordia University in Montreal. While it is these two ladies who tend to get the brunt of the credit for the project, they are more than aware of all of the individuals who contribute to the project: “It’s basically like a skillshare collective. It’s mainly alaska and myself that do all of the visuals, but everyone helps out,” Ruby tells me. “It’s kind of a revolving cast,” she tells me, before going on to gush about the backgrounds of nearly all of the group’s current members and what they have brought to the table: “We’re all sort of trained in one thing, but have other interests… We all dabble in other mediums.”
In terms of what particular ideas or messages any given member of YT//ST brings to the project, Ruby says that there are no real guidelines. “It’s up to the personal members,” she tells me, going on to joke about much of the content coming from “Whoever has a chip on their shoulder because of some aspect of their childhood.” If you’re still wondering what YT//ST are all about, race, cultural identity, and gender do seem to often be at the forefront of the minds of its individual members. However, she tells me that the project doesn’t necessarily have a unified political message, but that it works more as a platform for the individual members to get things off of their individual chests: “It’s really just about creating a space where people who feel eclipsed by the mainstream can feel viable.”
The show that YT//ST is rolling through the states is a little different from the shows they’ve become famous for putting on in Canada: “As an opening band, we can’t have a huge stage show.” However, the initial perceived limitations have proven to be far less daunting than expected: “It’s limited to stuff we can put in a suitcase, but you can fit a lot in a suitcase.” Ruby characterizes the band’s summer dates here by saying “It’s a little more of a dressed up rock set,” although she assures me that the band will bring a few of the more significant staples of their live show… just don’t get your hopes up for a major backdrop or the modular LED lighting system created by alaska. Although these shows are relatively stripped, it sounds like the band is still thinking on grandiose scale: “We try to create a psychic space.”
We’re not yet half way through 2012, but the collective already seems to be booked for more-or-less the rest of the year. Fall will see the premiere of their new play, 33, which originally began as a 33-minute rock opera, which the group decided to extend by doubling it into a 66-minute rock opera. In addition, Ruby tells me, “We have to record our next album… We’re going to be in Europe around November… We’re [alaska and herself] going to be doing a small show for Rock Camp for Girls in July.” As we chat she seems slightly frazzled with her upcoming schedule. However, she seems beyond thrilled for all of it. She tells me about the work she and alaska have previously done with Rock Camp for Girls: “I really love working with children… It was like a taiko drum workshop. Kids ages 9-15 really just want to bang on things.” In a fit of excitement she also ended up spilling the beans on some details about upcoming projects that aren’t technically public just yet… and that, no, I won’t share with you. But their show next Tuesday at KFN should be more than enough to keep you excited through the week. After all, this is likely going to be your only chance in this lifetime to see an “opera,” of any sort, at a place called Kung Fu Necktie… and that’s pretty fucking neat.