Mexico’s alternative electronic dance trio, TITAN, returned to the studio after ten years and recently released their fourth studio album, DAMA. This album has appearances by Egyptian Lover, Gary Numan and Siobhan Fahey. TITAN has been in and out of the rotation in my music library over the years.
Back in 1999 or early 2000, I sat with my friends, getting stoned after school, watching music videos. It was something we often did back then, living out in the country, there really wasn’t a whole lot else to do. We’d watch music videos, or listen to my father’s massive vinyl collection while shooting pool. This day, as we passed around a poorly rolled joint, the strangest thing came on. A video from a group we’d never heard of, TITAN. A little green alien was talking to a man’s butt while he dug in the trunk, and we laughed hysterically.
“1,2,3,4” was a strange mix of surf rock with electronic beats, which we knew nothing about back then. We were more into bands like Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam. Though different, the song was undeniably catchy, and the video kept our baked brains entertained throughout the duration. We watched that video a few times over the next month or so before it dropped from rotation, and I had completely forgotten about TITAN. Then, back in 2007, I came across a CD at a used record store. I picked it up, immediately remembering that old video, and popped it into my car stereo as I drove home.
The self-titled album, TITAN, was definitely a change from “1,2,3,4”, but it was still good. Instead of surf rock, they’d swapped for more: Pulsating blues, Spanish influences and a dozen other genres through each track. It was an up-tempo (for the most part) amalgamate that was a beast all its own. Everything blended and bended naturally. One second you are listening to a bluesy riff play behind beats giving this strange form of trip-hop, then there are saxophones with swing undertones. The whole album was a sharp turn, track after track.
Ten years after that wonderful album, I again, had forgotten all about TITAN. The CD was lost through one of my many, many moves, and so was the memory. So, when I heard there was a new album, DAMA, I was pleasantly surprised. I went back, now equipped with the powers of Spotify, and re-listened to that self-titled album to get a quick refresher course before delving into this new journey.
Ten years since their last foray, was a long time. A lot of years to grow, to evolve, to change styles. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Don’t believe me, then listen to Use Your Illusion II by Guns N’ Roses, then play Chinese Democracy. Yeah, hurts, doesn’t it?
Moving from TITAN to DAMA was a definite shift in style. Where the first had been filled with quick beats, and flaunted its diversity in your face like a strobe light, DAMA comes in like your girlfriends younger and hotter sister. It’s smooth, a little more seductive, and filled with mystery.
The first thing to grab my attention, was Gary Numan’s name on one of the tracks. I’m a huge Numan fan, since I was young and first heard “Cars”. Now, normally, I like to listen to an album from track one on wards. Just my way, I hate skipping around the first listen, afraid I’ll miss something that mattered later on. I skipped straight for “Dark Rain”. That song title paired with Gary Numan should have been a warning that I was in for something very, very different from the previous album.
The track starts like any other 80’s dark wave. Simple electric drum beat, interjections of synth, rinse, repeat, enter vocals from the man himself. Alright, at this point, I have totally forgotten that I was listening to something new. This could be off any Gary Numan album released in the last few decades. It’s good, it’s really good. But I couldn’t really decipher where TITAN lends a hand in any of this. However, as I restarted from track one, I soon came to realize, this is their new sound. They’ve become Gary Numan. Okay, maybe not quite. But they have embodied this dark wave sound, and they do it excellently. The up-tempo beats and sounds from previous albums has been all but erased. Rather simple drums, and old school synth keyboards are their new norm. It’s evident fifteen seconds into track one, “DAMA Fina”.
Track two, “Hell.A.”, comes in with a bit more rhythm, making you want to tap your foot, before getting to what could be considered a chorus that makes you really want to dance. Then, they reel it back in, and simplify it again. With Siobhan Fahey doing the vocals, it feels like this would belong in a David Lynch film. It’s dark, noir like, yet catchy and melodic.
Moving on down the track list I find how the band has evolved. The multitude of instruments from their previous albums has been stripped back. Instead of being caught in tracks with so much going on, you are shown what this Mexican outfit can do when left bare-knuckled. It’s drilled from your speakers, straight into your head. With hooks that are left dangling in your mind long after you have finished the last track, and guest vocalists that nail every cue, this album is close to perfect.
From the track “DAMA Negra”, through to “Soldado”, the sound alters, but only slightly. The beats get more aggressive, and the vocals, including Numan’s, become more prominent. The sounds still have that dark wave tinge, but hearing even “Dark Rain” in the context of its surrounding tracks, changes the story. The melodies have turned into something more noise filled, and the progressions have hastened, no longer lingering on the opening beats. Instead of slow build ups, they’ve gone in for the kill. The video for “El Rey Del Swing” captures all of this energy perfectly.
They give you all they have. From the 80’s drum patters and synthesizers, there come beads of trip-hop, disco, and by the time you get midway through “Arahant”, you can even taste a little rock being stirred in before you move along to “She Like De Music”.
“She Like De Music” lost me a bit and the song felt out of place. It wasn’t just the vocals, but the music as well makes a quick switch to a more R&B with Rap, styling to it with the Egyptian Lover on the mic. The song is by no means a bad song but, it fits awkwardly into this whole set. With the dance and dark sounds of the previous tracks, the rhythm and vocal styling just doesn’t seem to be paired very well with the rest. With “Himno” following immediately after, a short little diddy of an instrumental makes “She Like De Music” stand out even more. The track stands well on its own. Not everyone is like me and listens to an album from end to end. But, listen for yourself and then you can decide.
Powered with tracks like “Dark Rain” and “Arahant”, I would call this venture a success by TITAN. I really do hope we don’t have to wait another decade before we hear more. But, as this time around proved, they’re more than worth the wait, and very unpredictable. I would be so bold as to call this one of the most “complete” albums of 2016. With a stripped bare approach that slowly grows one track after another, rather smooth progressions, and a strong guest appearance list, this isn’t an album you’d want to miss. Even if it is getting little publicity from mainstream markets. But, what do they know anyway? Add them to your music library!
Titan “1,2,3,4” on Youtube