Titan to Tachyons – Vonals

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Instrumental experimental jazz metal. That description alone is enough to make eardrums shatter, brains burst, and the most open of minds to implode with the unending (im)possibilities such a phrase can conjure. Led by New Zealand/New York composer and guitarist Sally Gates (ex-Orbweaver), New York City-based Titan to Tachyons’ debut album, 2020’s Cactides, featured the musical might of drummer Kenny Grohowski (Secret Chiefs 3, Imperial Triumphant, John Zorn), and Matt Hollenberg (Cleric, John Zorn) on bass VI (that’s the bass that Nigel Tufnel has never played and refuses to let Martin “Marty” Di Bergi point to or even look at). Following a guest appearance on ‘Everybody’s Dead, Dave’ on the debut, Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk) joins on second bass for the surrealist science f(r)iction that makes up the the intricate sonic tapestry presented on the band’s second album, Vonals.

Band photography by Naeemah Z. Maddox

Eclectic, fluid, jarring, explosive, meditative, adjective, adjective, adjective… Yep, it’s one of those albums. At times cacophonous, at others exquisite, the musical explorations exercised by this queer quartet are nothing less than incredible. Opener ‘Neutron Wrangler’ is a weighted piece, heavy on intensity and loaded with rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, and sonic concentration. ‘Vacuum Symmetry’ gets pretty ugly pretty early on with the distorted bass threatening to disrupt the dulcet improvisations before the melody moves through an array of musical manifestations. ‘Critical Paranoia’ is the soundscape to a sci-fi nightmare of psychological and ontological proportions that, when it reaches its coda, leaves the listener cold, traumatised.

‘Wax Hypnotic’ farts its way into existence with staccato blasts of distortion that give way to a contorted mist that continues to darken and grow with a looming might. With five of the six tracks averaging eight minutes, at just under two minutes, ‘Close The Valve & Wait’, an unnerving bricolage of non-musical sounds and textures, offers no respite from the unhinged sci-fi/psycho/surreal dream/nightmare journey that this album thrust the listener into and through. ‘Blue Thought Particles’, according to Gates, is a deep dive into ‘the nature of consciousness and thought, whether of artificial, natural, or unknown origin’, and among the textures, emotions, counterpoints, and polyrhythms of the battered and tattered landscape, sees Dunn and Hollenberg switch between bass, melodic and soloist roles to close out an album that is nothing less than a sonic, surreal, and psychotic delight.

Review by Jason Guest

Released through Tzadik on 16 September 2022

Links:

Track List:

  1. Neutron Wrangler
  2. Vacuum Symmetry
  3. Critical Paranoia
  4. Wax Hypnotic
  5. Close The Valve & Wait
  6. Blue Thought Particles