AMN Reviews: Titan to Tachyons – Vonals (2022; Tzadik)

Two years ago Titan to Tachyons put themselves on the map with a stellar debut, and now they return with an expanded lineup and yet another compelling release. A true genre-blending outfit led by guitarist Sally Gates, on Vonals the group fuses technical metal, prog rock, jazz, blues, and generally heavy weirdness across 45 minutes.

Joining Gates are prior bandmates Matt Hollenberg on bass VI and Kenny Grohowski on drums. Trevor Dunn, who guested on bass for one track on the last go-around, is a full member this time. Hollenberg and Grohowski are two-thirds of John Zorn’s Simulacrum and half of Zorn’s Chao Magick, while Dunn has collaborated with Zorn on at least a dozen releases. Nonetheless, while Titan to Tachyons exhibits the occasional Zorn-ism, its sound is largely driven by Gates. She is a muscular player who combines heavy riffing with blues-oriented soloing and an understated lyricism that bleeds into abstraction. Indeed, her melodies and themes are memorable, bursting with ideas that dance about the angular / catchy and inside / outside axes.

Hollenberg and Dunn both taking on bass duties adds a unique flavor to Vonals. Particularly, the bass VI is a six-string bass that is tuned like a guitar but an octave lower. Hollenberg plays it both like a guitar and a bass, which allows him to counterpoint Gates, Dunn, or both. In addition, the three guitars can combine into a massive wall of sound or delicate interlocking rhythms. And lest we forget, Grohowski is a creative monster on the drum kit.

All of this adds up to another brilliant piece of work from Gates and company. In short, if you appreciate the first Titan to Tachyons album, Vonals should be a no-brainer. It will be released on September 16 by Tzadik Records.

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