[5 February 2007]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
The opening minute of Titan’s new album, the wordily-titled, rosy-hued A Raining Sun of Light and Love For You and You and You…, is so inauspicious, it’s nearly enough to make the listener hit the stop button and trade the CD in at the local secondhand emporium. Plaintively plucked acoustic guitars give way to layered vocals that either sound intentionally precious, under the influence of various hallucinogens, or both, crooning the kind of hippy-dippy lyrics that we’d expect from Donovan in 1965: “She stands in the gaze of her sun / Ladies lovely only one / Garden grows so slowly lonely in the ground / Child knows his mother weeps but cannot hear the sound.” Suddenly, though, feedback starts to push its way through the mix, giving way to an audacious guitar squeal at the 1:15 mark, which in turn introduces the real sound of Titan: massive, massive stoner-tinged space rock, with a drummer hammering the living daylights out of his ride cymbal, bass and guitar repeating the same two chords heard in the acoustic intro, only much, much louder, and a distorted organ providing the central melody, channeling Deep Purple’s John Lord and Uriah Heep’s Ken Hensley. It turns out that this four-minute movement is merely an overture to the real musical pyrotechnics that follow, as the song then explodes into a roaring, propulsive jam that sounds equal parts Hawkwind, Blue Cheer, and contemporary space-rockers Comets on Fire, and for the next 38 minutes, the lead singer shuts up, and the band unleashes the proverbial fury on us with some of the most invigorating instrumentals we’ll hear all year.
Like Kemado Records, who has been behind several hard rock/metal bands geared toward the indie rock crowd, including their own psychedelic retro-rockers Danava, the Tee Pee label is taking the same route as of late, having released the critically-lauded debut album by Witch in 2006 (you know, the band with J. Mascis moonlighting on drums), but neither Titan not Danava is the kind of “false” music given the condescending “hipster metal” tag by cynical metal scenesters. The foundation of the music might be steeped in retro charm and imbued with the kind of likeable eccentricity that a band like Akron/Family exudes so well, but when both bands settle down and get to work, the music is punishing, spine-tingling, and loud.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between Titan and their West Coast contemporaries, but while Danava tosses in a strong glam rock sound into their epic compositions, Titan sticks to the pure muscle of the sound. By the time that ten-minute opening track “Annals of the Former World” comes to its swirling climax, guitarist John Anzano, keyboardist Kris D’Agostino, bassist Dan Bates, and drummer Adam Kriney hammering with reckless abandon, yet sounding remarkably tight, the band’s gargantuan wall of noise is impressive enough to leave us wondering just how huge it would sound in a live setting. “Hashishin Ohel” positively reeks of the Moroccan herb, continuing right where the previous track left off, only this time making room for the odd jazz fusion departure to discordant waves of keyboard feedback and guitar squeals and squalls similar to Acid Mother Temple, to a blues-drenched coda that sounds equal parts Klaatu and Mahogany Rush.
The Acid Mothers Temple vibe is cranked to full on the extended freakout “Obelisk Orbit Overdrive”, Kriney providing a furious backbeat as Anzano and D’Augustino add layer upon layer of swirling drones and feedback filtered through phase shifters, a mellifluous guitar solo starting to become discernable four minutes in. A time signature change from two-four to three-four shifts the song from relentless speed to churning heaviness, before the bottom suddenly falls out, leaving nothing but trilling guitar notes, which then segues into an extended synth solo that sounds shockingly upbeat, nay, whimsical. The best is saved for last, though, as “Aufruf der Pilze” dives straight into early-1970s krautrock, driven by a decidedly Neu!-esque motorik beat, combining with a disciplined jam that smacks of Can’s “Mother Sky”.
With only four songs over 42 minutes, the album is a lengthy listen, but not a challenging one (the most challenging aspect of this CD is actually the brilliant psychedelic artwork inside the digipak). Although the foursome veers from old-school soloing and synth-twiddling to more cutting edge abstract sounds; any hint of self-indulgence is kept in check, the arrangements tight, the performances focused, the mix by Steve Revitte (who has worked with Black Dice and Liars in the past) balancing the right amounts of density and melody. It’s an album with a very broad appeal; as the title indicates, it’s for everyone, not just one niche, music good enough to unite indie kids, metal fans, and classic rockers alike.