For nearly twenty years, Milwaukee’s Cactus Club has been among the finest live music venues in the Midwest, featuring such acts as The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Interpol, Death Cab for Cutie, The Sword, High On Fire, The Faint, Bright Eyes, Eyedea & Abilities, Red Fang, Sylvan Esso, Redd Kross, Sharon Van Etten, Polica, Russian Circles, King Tuff, and countless other national, international, and local bands.
There’s a whole world contained within Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. They’re a Noh-Wave prog collective, a black-and-white (and sometimes red) theatre company, an operatic psych cult, and the speculative prophets of humanity’s impending doom. Above it all, though, they’re a thunderous rock band, and on their third album, DIRT, they’re the heaviest they’ve ever been.
Though they’ve been an amorphous beast since they formed in 2010, DIRT follows the group’s most significant evolution in years. Now totally Toronto-based, they’ve added new singer Joanna Delos Reyes, guitarist Hiroki Tanaka and bassist Brandon Lim, who, along with the towering drums of leader/artist Alaska B, singer/theatre artist Ange Loft and keyboardist Brendan Swanson, turn the group into a driving engine of sound. Live, the band can be sprawling and theatrical or concise and visceral, filling the stage with noise, melody and cacophony.
DIRT is the band’s first album since 2013’s UZU, their second straight to be shortlisted for the Polaris Prize as one of the best Canadian albums of the year. But the gap between albums hasn’t been a hiatus. Instead, the group hunkered down in the studio composing the mostly-instrumental score to the DrinkBox Studios video game Severed, along with members of the Canadian-Filipina gong group Pantayo. They emerged with new elements to heighten and distort into their already far-reaching sound, which combines and tornadoes Asian diasporic and Indigenous influences and perspectives.