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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Avant-garde artists provide unique Chum’s experience

Published: April 25, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

On April 11, just before the Brandeis community took its second spring break, students packed into Chum’s Coffee House for a musical experience unlike any other presented this year. The concert, originally scheduled to take place outside The Rose, was driven inside by the rain, and was set up by WBRS, the club’s final show of the school year. The show featured two bands: Canada’s Yamantaka//Sonic Titan and New York City’s Son Lux, two very different acts.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, started by performance artists Ruby Kato Attwood and Alaska b., is a five-piece ensemble that plays a unique blend of rock and the music of various cultures, including indigenous Canadian. On the other hand, Son Lux is the live band of Ryan Lott, a singer and composer who has worked with artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Lorde.

After the large crowd of wet students crammed themselves into the smaller venue, it looked like many did not know what to expect from the performance. Though Son Lux has a following, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan is not all that well known, and the crowd’s lukewarm reaction once the band took the stage reflected that. But Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, clad in bedazzled leather jackets and facepaint, immediately blew the audience away. The band’s music, powered by grungy guitars, complex drums, classical piano and amazing vocal range from Attwood and co-lead singer Ange Loft creates a theatrical and danceable atmosphere that attendees responded to enthusiastically. Songs such as “Whalesong” had the feeling of classic progressive rock and an almost operatic storyline in the lyrics, and Chum’s ate it up.

But as the band began to increase volume on dancier songs, the sound, run by Student Production Services, began to crackle. The microphones had some horrible feedback, as if all the knobs on the Chum’s soundboard had been cranked. The issues resolved eventually, but it was noticeable and clearly bothered both the audience and the band members.

Yamantaka//Sonic Titan finished their set after almost 10 songs, and Son Lux took the stage, thankfully backed by their own sound engineers. Son Lux’s dreamy, hip-hop inspired songs were a total 180 from the first act, but the crowd’s response was just as positive. Lott and his band played through their set with palpable emotion and soul, calling to bands such as Massive Attack and the aforementioned Lorde with their minimal-yet-complex sound.

The audience danced and sang along to the more intimate Son Lux, clearly enjoying themselves, especially during the musical swells that made the dance floor burst with energy. It was fun, and for several students, romantic, once Lott brought out his slower compositions. Lott, who has composed and arranged music for films such as 2012’s “Looper,” clearly has a comprehensive understanding of musical theory, and that came out in his vocals and keyboard work.

While I personally enjoyed the more experimental and energetic Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, I nevertheless had a lot of fun watching Son Lux and was glad to have discovered both artists as a result of the concert. Audience members talked to members of both bands after the show, buying T-shirts and vinyl records before braving the rain and walking home. As always, the concert was followed by a student-led dance party, which I didn’t stay for but listened to as I left. Overall, the presentation was a great way for students to get together and enjoy music before finals in a more intimate fashion than the upcoming SpringFest will offer. Kudos to WBRS.