A post critiquing two female-fronted, genre-hopping experimental bands — and exaggerations.

YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN

Pitchfork describes YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN as “psych-opera.” Press point yarn. This is not psych-opera, dudes; at least, not in musical style. When in consideration of YT//ST, one is inundated with hype terminology — including the band’s calling themselves “Noh(能)-Wave” (aka Traditional-Japanese-Dance-Theatre-Wave) and even more obnoxiously, “hyper-orientalist.”

While I am all for incorporating multicultural influences into one’s music, there is a degree of intense Asian fetishism present in YT//ST’s schtick that translates to their image in an arguably trite way. “Queens,” “Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider,” and “Hoshi Neko” from their new record certainly have moments of genre-crossing excellence. I don’t want to take away from that. But the music itself is not really opera, barely psychedelic, and definitely not hyper-orientalist, save for the use of the Japanese language. The genres that are crossed are more steeped in noise, metal, and pop; the hyper-orientalism plays out in facepaint (presumably in honor of Asian opera), music videos that seem a bit “tokidoki”, and pop art paper sculpture sets.

YT//ST call themselves a multi-disciplinary art collective, and they incorporate illustration and installation art into their performances. Fantastic! The way of the future! I admire their impetus! But what is it about Japanese and Asian culture that makes such emulation and fetishism culturally acceptable? While it is true that the two main ladies behind the project are themselves of mixed Asian heritage, at what point is it genuine, and at what point kitsch? These are just some things to contemplate while you decide yourself, via album stream and live performance video, below.
See an interesting discussion with PRINCE RAMA bout the topic of genuine versus kitsch HERE.

Swahili Blonde

Swahili Blonde also incorporate different multiple genres to break new musical territory. But at least their comparison points are actually rooted in discernible influences rather than just ridiculous buzz words. Yes — in Swahili Blonde you can hear evidence of the “unconventional dubby art-rock,” “Caribbean influences,” and “angular funk” of which they speak. And hell, though they didn’t use the description of “psych-opera,” I hear it more in their music and see it more in their visuals than in YT//ST’s. Their record, Psycho Tropical Ballet Pink, came out late last year, and the tracks “Etoile De Mer” and “Purple Ink” are great examples of genuine experimental groovy weirdness, not just emulation and fetishism. Stream the entire record below.


Directed by Burke Roberts.

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