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Lions Roar : March 2013
YAMANTAKA II SONIC TITAN MUSICAL ADVENTURES IN THE PURE LAND As a fan of heavy and—okay—often weird music, I was pretty excited when I learned about Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Their name is a hybrid, combining a Buddhist deity and the title of a truly epic track by the classic doom-metal band, Sleep. And they sound it: the band’s self-titled debut LP is at turns beauti- ful, pummeling, noisy, and transcendent. YT//ST is ambitious; they’ve already completed 33, a rock opera that incorporates Buddhist themes, and another, Star, is in progress. When I got the chance to see them recently, I found the band’s blend of musicianship, exploration, Buddhist themes, and theatrics even more potent on stage than it is on record. Led by drummer Alaska B. and vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood, the band—all in face paint evoking Noh theatre as well as heavy metal’s more extreme forms—is capable of holding a music hall in thrall. Attwood enhances the band’s already undeniable presence through a series of Buddhist mudras matched with facial expressions that seem at once compassion- ate and fierce. See them if you can, but listen to them either way. You can stream all of YT//ST’s debut album online at yamantakasonictitan.bandcamp.com. THE FM3 BUDDHA MACHINE A TEMPLE OF SOUND, IN YOUR POCKET Aesthetically, it’s sort of a cross between your grandpa’s transistor radio and an iPod. But the sound that comes out of the FM3 Buddha Machine isn’t what you’d expect out of either of those. Instead, the Machine plays dreamy, drony loops cre- ated by a duo in Beijing who took their inspiration from a similar gadget that some Asian temples employ to play full- volume loops of actual Buddhist chants. (The machines keep the chants going—and make it seem to the world that the temples are packed with enthusiastic and vocal aspirants.) The FM3 machine works in much the same way, only with its own custom sounds. Music fans quickly learned to love its soothing, lo-fi charms. Musicians, too: since its 2007 release, the Machine has spawned four “remix albums” that feature contributions from Chinese as well as Western artists, including Robert Henke of Monolake, the metal/drone-duo SunnO))), and the Sun City Girls. The Buddha Machine can be hard to find; luckily, there’s now an iPhone app that stands in nicely. IN THE CLUB DHARMA TALKS AND “DUBSUTRA” ON THE DANCE FLOOR While he has yet to rap, Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, has been experimenting with club music as a way to reach young peo- ple. “Awake Amsterdam,” held at a hip concert venue in May 2011, combined Buddhist teachings with electronic music in a nightclub setting, followed by a dharma talk and, yes, medita- tion. Attendance topped out at 700, and a 2012 “Awake” event was quickly planned. In Japan, two aspiring Jodo Shinshu priests, performing as Tariki Echo, are making Buddhist dance music inspired by the musical trend of the moment, dubstep. While their helmets might evoke the famed French electronic act Daft Punk, TE are their own unique animal. They’ve created their own genre, “dubsutra,” made by matching Buddhist sutras to dubstep beats, and released their first album, Buddha Sound, last year. You can hear their work online at tarikiecho.jp. PHOTOBYBYMATTHEWMAASKANT/ALASKABBUDDHAMACHINEIMAGE:LONGMO.NET SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 68