Titan to Tachyons – Cactides Review

A Colin Marston produced release featuring Kenny Grohowski of Imperial Triumphant, and Matt Hollenberg of Cleric/John Zorn? What could go wrong? Well, a lot. But, also, there’s potential for some mind-bending magic to be cast through Cactides, the debut release by avant/instrumental trio Titan to Tachyons. After performing live around New York, the band decided to attempt a proper release, something physical that’ll be judged, adored, and discarded until the end of time. Channeling harsh dissonant experimentation through playful, melodic grooves, Titan to Tachyons are the musical equivalent of hard science fiction, their sound designed to puzzle and intrigue. Is Cactides too cryptic?

Cactides – in the form of “Morphing Machineminds” – gets off to a stomping start as doom-laden heft descends, Sabbath-like, into a skipping groove. Instantly, the production on Cactides cloaks the listener in a vast world of supersonic, funkified, garbled, fragmentary looseness. Kenny Grohowski’s drumming is a bass heavy exercise in excess, constant in its fluid chaos and frantic diversity. There’s little in the way of restraint – Grohowski plays as if he’s upholding the dissonant chaos of his main band, Imperial Triumphant, but does demonstrate a greater tenderness as funkier breaks in Titan To Tachyons’ sound emerge. Though initially alluring, “Morphing Machineminds” loses focus. Its diverse range of sounds blur into a mulch of expressive but overindulgent sound.

Similar to the opening of “Morphing Machineminds,” “The Starthinker is Obsolete” opens with a heavier thrust that chugs and crushes with delicious peculiarity. It’s starker, sharper and more abrasive. Matt Hollenberg (Cleric, John Zorn) strikes angular slabs of sound from his guitar, upheld by a horn-like bass tone from Sally Gates (ex-Orbweaver, Gigan live) that throbs alongside the mechanical movement. Like the previous, “The Starthinker is Obsolete” unhinges; the great philosopher – the starthinker – growing manic, possessed by cryptic knowledge, speaks in tongues and flees into the wilderness clothed in nothing but rags. Lear-esque, the song descends into cosmic chaos that lacks structure and any sort of hook. 

As a listener, it’s difficult to burrow into the sound. There’s little comfort to be found in the dissonant, free form noodlings that Titan to Tachyons are so intent on creating. There can be a tendency for the record to blend into one blur of experimental tomfoolery. When at their best, though, Titan To Tachyons use their unique palette to paint exciting vistas. Controlled and more restrained, a fluttering tenderness makes up the rising action of “Tycho Magnetic.”  As if stopping off at a desert paradise for refueling, the band are drawn into a sub-plot of eastern mysticism. A dancing groove, snake-like, whips through the track; there’s a real sense of recognizable structure. A rich solo simmers through, the heat rising, before the song loops back to its stoner-doom start – the ship leaves the desert. Conveying balance,  Titan to Tachyons are able to experiment with texture and sound whilst a listener can groove along, firmly rooted in a unique world. 

Titans are a success when creative and decisive with their world building. Standout, “Earth, and Squidless” shows a greater sense of structural unity. An elastic groove, deeper in tone, surges through the opening. Decaying into heavier territories, the track’s heavy surge is engrossing – Titan To Tachyons suit a denser gait, firing off shards of mathy dissonance and rumbling double bass drumming. The track simmers into a cosmic vacuum for three minutes as tribal drumming carries a sensual solo into the nether regions of the universe. Then, a splintering explosion – a return to the groundwork laid at the beginning with added intensity. A greater unity in track constructions hows Titan To Tachyons at their best. 

Unfortunately, the ten minute structured improvised closer “Everybody’s Dead, Dave” is the sound of being put to a slow death. Despite featuring guest bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, Secret Chiefs 3), the track achieves nothing of worth in the grand scheme of an album. Assessing Cactides is a confusing one. On one hand it feels like an exercise rather than a coherent whole, on the other hand there are real moments/tracks that stand out as a unit, united by sci-fi themes and clever adaptations of sound and motifs. The only thing for a reviewer to do is apply fairness and tact in weighing up personal biases, the intent of the artist and the context of the release within the extreme metal sphere (for most of us on this site view and assess records with metal as our compass.) Weighing these elements, Cactides is unsuccessful as a whole but intriguing in small, decontextualised doses. If you’re looking for a journey, something distant from the comforts of home, embark on a voyage with Titan To Tachyons. I can’t promise it’ll be a smooth ride. 

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nefarious Industries
Website: titantotachyons.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: August 14th, 2020

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