Review: Titan To Tachyons ‘Cactides’

NYC’s Titans To Tachyons is a new instrumental progressive jazz power trio featuring guitarist Sally Gates (ex-Orbweaver, ex-Gigan), with Kenny Grohowski (Secret Chiefs 3, Imperial Triumphant, Brand X) and Matt Hollenberg (Cleric, John Zorn) on drums and bass respectively— all boasting extensive resumes spanning the avant-garde, and if the name isn’t enough to pique your curiosity, then a few seconds of listening to their debut Cactides is bound to draw you in, if only to figure out what’s coming out of your speaker.

Titan To Tachyons 'Cactides'

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Colin Marston at Menegroth, the Thousand Caves (Dysrhythmia, Behold… The Arctopus, Cleric) in Queens, New York, Cactides is five tracks of dense, precision oriented jazz metal fusion. Whether or not all, or just some, of this forty one minute opus was improvised (notable album closer Everybody’s Dead, Dave is the only track specified as improvisational), the result is absolutely beyond a doubt impressive, genius even if you’re one for superlatives.

Opener Morphing Machineminds lumbers intently but with its juxtaposed discordant frantic bursts, is like a plant growing in fast motion towards sixteen different points of light, each path with its own obstacles to warmth and sustenance; these frantic bursts become single foundation points for evolution. I can only imagine during the writing process that they were all in a basement studio, minds telepathically linked to a 22nd century supercomputer, being cued on how to musically manifest the secrets of a timeless universe—sounds fantastically ridiculous when you say it aloud, but the depth of the band’s complex structured cacophony could only come from a higher intelligence (or just three incredibly gifted musicians).

Album highlight Tycho Magnetic begins with a ring modulated dissonant lead overlying a melodic chord progression, periodically broken by ‘prisms’ of delicate picking; this anchors the song to some semblance of familiar territory as it revisits this sequence after a mind blowing trek through some of the group’s most impressive acrobatics. At its stride the song boasts harmonic minor leads which mesh with intricate jazz fills seemingly at the hands of a seizing mime, guitar work playfully jumping in a nimble dance with the kick and snare, both interlocked, joined at the hip, the mind, the eyes, dueling and daring the other to take the next most inspiring and dangerous step…throughout all this there are intermittent mellow tangential interludes of heady solo work, as if to take a breath, but the band rests in motion, even the tranquil steps bringing their complex message to the fore.

To successfully carry this off, to recreate a detailed dystopian, futuristic world through music alone is an amazing achievement…

Although an investment is surely necessary to grasp the album’s breadth, it’s a testament to the trio’s skill that this record goes down as smoothly as it does. This is all relative mind you, because to the casual ear it might sound anything but ‘smooth’—case in point, Earth, And Squidless, in its jagged bass and stabbing, angular, sliding guitar, all moving like aquatic tentacles. In essence, it allows every listener the chance to be a synesthete, seeing what they hear in all shades of detail. The nonlinear evolution of the music is akin to schizophrenic thought, but the difference is that the band’s nonlinear message is intentional, as if speaking an inter dimensional language. The track culminates in a percussively driven interlude with Gates’ trademark dynamic fretwork finally devolving into a burning mainframe of discordance.

Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Secret Chiefs 3) joins the band on bass for the record’s finale Everybody’s Dead, Dave, the track sporting an ominous slow building intro, bent notes, and sweeping lead effects. It’s like waking up to a deserted prison from 2087, the sheer disjointed weight of time travel mixed with abandonment and a life sentence; that’s what I envision based on the sound. The maniacal bursts of frantic instrumentation would match my disillusionment, anger, confusion, and impending insanity.

To successfully carry this off, to recreate a detailed dystopian, futuristic world through music alone is an amazing achievement. To be able to tell a blind man they can now see with the certainty of sleepwalking, that what they hear can so perfectly mirror what the mind would imagine 100+ years into the future is a miracle of the senses.

Label: Nefarious Industries
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Jeremy Moore