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Artistically baffling Canadian band shakes it up on 'UZU'

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Brian Krasman
Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, 7:44 p.m.
 

‘UZU'

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (Suicide Squeeze)

★★★★

This face-painted, elaborately costumed, artistically baffling Canadian band left an indelible mark with its excellent debut “YT//ST,” so much so that it's been reissued multiple times since it dropped in 2011. But what the band has come up with on “UZU” has to shake up even its most ardent fans.

That's not meant in a bad way. It's just that “UZU” is such a huge artistic burst from Yamantaka//Sonic Titan's debut that I wonder if there are boundaries that could possibly confine this band. The record sprawls over an incredibly dramatic, catchy 10 tracks, offering electronic pulses, prog-style rock magic, fiery distortion, and the soaring vocals of Ruby Kato Attwood. The peaks are the unreal psyche damage of “Hall of Mirrors”; dramatic storyteller “Whalesong”; the chaotic, bombastic rock of the dual “Seasick” cuts; and the cosmic exploration of “Saturn's Return,” which should enthrall experimental music fans and those who just love sweeping beauty. This band should be headlining gigantic music halls, and hopefully this great record gets it there.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan play an all-ages show at the Smiling Moose Saturday night at 7. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door.

‘Memorial'

Russian Circles (Sargent House)

★★★★

The fifth record from Chicago instrumental rockers Russian Circles is their heaviest, most aggressive to date, and while they've never been outright categorized as metal before, they probably can be on “Memorial.”

These eight cuts are tumultuous, boiling, lava-splashed, and outright aggressive, and even on a quieter cut such as the album-closing title track, which features the haunting vocals of Chelsea Wolfe, you still should find yourself feeling utterly unsettled. Other selections, such as opener “Memoriam,” “1777,” and “Burial,” will render your mind battered, your ears will bleed, and you will have no choice but to genuflect to Russian Circles' absolute power. This is their best record yet.

‘Black Tar Prophecies Vol's 4, 5 & 6'

Grails (Temporary Residence)

★★★½

Portland, Ore., instrumental agitators Grails are prolific, mysterious, and hard to keep track of because it seems like they're always creating something bizarre. On this new collection of work from its “Black Tar Prophecies” series, the band shows even more reasons why it's so fun to follow and menacing to embrace.

Starting with the chilling, eerie “I Want a New Drug” (NOT a cover of the Huey Lewis song), they use a haunting sample of “No One Knows the Trouble I've Seen” as a spooky lead-in that only builds from there, from the Allman Brothers meets space horror “Self-Hypnosis,” to wormhole madness of “Wake Up Drill II” that stirs and shakes you, to psyche-washed folk of “Chariots.” If you didn't catch these selections as they were released the past few years, Grails have your back. Just keep watching behind it for when they sneak up on you again.

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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