UZU is a heavy record. It slays and stomps its way through YST’s own special brands of prog, psychedelia, heavy metal, and even, at times, something like opera. All these influences on one album, including some East-meets-West cross-pollination (the first single, “One,” starts off with a traditional Iroquois song), might seem like a mixture too ambitious, too muddled and confusing to achieve any definition of cohesive. But the end product is a blistering sharp, exciting, and innovative collection of songs.
The lead track, “Atalanta,” meanders through dirge-y, ominous piano until it lets go to twinkling keys and thin but heavy female vocals, eventually surging into the hyper-proggy “Whalesong,” driven by a riffy guitar that only holds off to showcase a quick but gorgeous piano and vocals break. The walls of guitar and psychedelic swirl keep the pace until “Seasickness Pt. 1,” which sounds like a sparse, demented take on R&B, with a lone piano and the crash of waves backing up a simple but soulful vocal performance. It doesn’t last long, though, as it seamlessly flows into “Seasickness Pt. 2,” the closest thing UZU has to a pop song (as in, a pop song full of metal guitar and twinkly synth). The whole twisted experiment ends with the tragic-sounding, piano-driven opera of “Saturn’s Return,” which devolves into a cacophony of white noise.
UZU’s weird, savage fantasy makes it instantly unforgettable – one of those rare albums that’s as accessible as it is strange. (Paper Bag Records, ytstlabs.com) Matt Williams