Sometimes, the only soundtrack for my present moment is an album that can do all the talking. By that, I mean the kind of records full of dense jams that are effortless to vibe along to, especially since each new listen always seems to offer a new perspective. If you’ve ever listened to albums like Can’s Tago Mago, Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, or King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
With their excellent full-length debut Cactides, we can now add Titan to Tachyons to the list of modern purveyors of this stylistic niche, such as Behold… The Arctopus, Dysrhythmia, and Ground Patrol. Yet, along with the math and tech metal wizardry you might expect, the trio draws from a diverse array of experimental rock influences, manifesting in everything from sci-fi-tined prog to psychedelic grooves. And while it’s definitely cliché to compare a “weird” rock band to Primus at this point, the instrumentation on Cactides is frequently reminiscent of albums like Antipop.
Before venturing any further, we need to acknowledge the breadth of expertise and experience this trio brings to the table. Cactides features the eclectic talents of guitarist Sally Gates (ex-Orbweaver, ex-Gigan), drummer Kenny Grohowski (Secret Chiefs 3, Imperial Triumphant, Brand X) and bassist Matt Hollenberg (Cleric, John Zorn). “Everybody’s Dead, Dave” even has a guest appearance from experimental music mainstay Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, Fantômas, Secret Chiefs 3, Melvins, Tomahawk). Oh, and the album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Colin Marston, whose résumé as a musician and producer speaks for itself at this point. Wild, right?
The music on Cactides is even more intriguing. Around every corner, there’s the potential you might encounter an angular riff, a free improv style freakout, or a surprisingly melodic passage. On opener “Morphing Machineminds,” a meaty, heavy psych riff wraps into quiet, pensive instrumentation before an abrupt mathgrind eruption, closed out with the ideas for the funk rock playbook à la Primus. It’s a wildly adventurous listen that only peels back the surface of what the album has to offer.
From there, the band unleashes four, 8+ minute cuts of unadulterated avant-rock ambition. Each track seems to be walking a tightrope bisecting our world and its darker foil, as the band effortlessly swings between powerful displays of heavy rock and oddities galore. In this endeavor, every member of the trio is clearly audible and crucial to the success of their collective efforts. Frankly, there’s too much ground to cover for a track-by-track breakdown, so I’ll just shout out a few favorite moments. Among the album’s top highlights, I love the Primus-meets-electric-era-Miles Davis vibe that closes out “The Starthinker is Obsolete,” the stoner-tinged post-rock atmosphere that hangs over “Tycho Magnetic,” and the full-on metal outburst that assaults the listener on “Earth, and Squidless.”
Yet, beyond all the instrumental and compositional complexity on Cactides, what’s most impressive about the trio’s debut album is the joy and energy they’re able to infuse into every track. On paper, this could have easily devolved into technicality and experimentation for the sake of producing an album that warranted the avant-garde label. But Titan to Tachyons balance their dazzling musical abilities with equally impressive songwriting, which combine to produce an album that you can’t help but surrender your psyche to until the final note rings out.
Cactides is available August 14 via Nefarious Industries.