“Someone get this band a slider!”
The Hiram Maxim and Yamantaka//Sonic Titan double bill at the Beachland Tavern was an immersive, and at times, transformative show that left the crowd truly blown back by the end of the night. Local noise rockers Hiram Maxim opened as people still filed into the venue and delivered a breakneck set whose fury seemed in spite of the initial anemic audience. Fred Gunn tore through their tracks with a relentless vitality. With equal parts howl and reverb, his screams were as though they were passing through a tunnel of ghosts compliments of Lisa Miralia who held down the effects board with her patented understated alchemical prowess.
The results were a crunchy dive bomber attack that served as proper showcase for the potential Hiram Maxim is just beginning to crack wide. The only drawback to their opening set was in its brevity. There is something to be said for leaving the audience wanting more, but their set felt more EP than an LP. By the time they closed with “Ghosts” they were just getting the crowd into their pocket, selflessly ginning them up the headliners to take over. Great things are to come with this band’s undeniable sonic acumen.
Entire articles can be dedicated to unpacking Yamantaka//Sonic Titan’s aesthetic and cultural influences. A play on post-punk’s No Wave, YT//ST are self-described “Noh Wave”, evidenced in their striking Asian Noh theatre makeup and attire. The band is an impressive amalgamation of cultural touchstones that are never appropriations as much as they are part of the ensemble’s pedigree. With a fusion of Asian and First Nation Native American influences, the prog/doom rockers have crafted an entirely singular and stunning genre of their own accord. At times thunderous, in parts delicate, the band left the crowd in attendance gobsmacked from their intensity.
Only hitting the states for a brief two-week tour before returning to their native Canada, this was YT//ST’s first exposure to Cleveland. An aspect underscored as they opened their set asking why is it so hard to find a good White Castle anywhere in Cleveland? Fair dues.
YT//ST is performing in support of their most recent release Dirt which debuted earlier this year. The album is a beginning to end exhibition of what can be achieved by artists fearlessly pushing their craft beyond any and all expected genre-defining limitations. The tribal-tinged call and response from the two female lead singers served as twin engines propelling the setlist skyward, with high notes cracking the stratosphere.
With instrumentation ranging from standard issue drums, bass, guitar, in addition to Native American drums, hand cymbals, synths and keyboard, there was every potential for a cluttered cacophony of noise. YT//ST masterfully sidesteps this pitfall with engaging arrangements that are at once meditative and head-banging. There is an other-worldly presence to the band that proves them greater than the sum of their parts.
Nearing the end of their set, their lead guitarist (apologies for not knowing their names) had to make a quick fix of a broken string. During the interlude the band was asked to explain just what Noh Wave is, to which they deferred to their much more pressing concern, just what does a touring band have to do to get a decent slider in this town? The hiccup in the set cost him the use of his delay pedal, which could have heightened the gentle noodling of the song that followed instead of the clean notes that were slightly sterile in juxtaposition to the rest of the instrumentation. With the act such a revelation to the Cleveland scene, the alteration was not measured against what should have or could have been, rather embraced as part of a stunningly new and total package.
By the time the set closed with the aptly titled “Out of Time” there were more than a few calls for encores from a totally enraptured crowd. If and when YT//ST come back to Cleveland each and every one of us need to come armed with a White Castle “crave case”, essentially a cardboard briefcase filled with mini-heart attacks; fair recompense for such a heart stopping presentation.