Listening to the San Francisco Bay Area’s Cactus Portal, an eclectic three-piece ready to explode into the math rock mix, you wouldn’t think they’d been playing together for less than a year. Their debut EP, Sporadic formations, offers nothing less than adept musicianship one would find in groups playing together for years on end. Although comprised of just three songs, this EP wastes no time—less than 60 seconds, to be exact—to set the stage for what can only be described as a dance-able soundscape, meandering between atmospheric contemplation and bright-eyed grooves.
The opening track, “Mulberry’s lemon bag,” begins with a sadder, emo-adjacent riff reminiscent of TTNG that quickly swells into erratic chugging and tapping beauty. The bass, although less prominent on this track, seems to bookmark a place in the tides, while the drums and guitar surf together, winding in and out of one another. The track culminates with one final crash, ending on a harmonic note that ebbs back to tranquil waters.
This is followed triumphantly by “No Salt on the Fries,” a track bolstered by chaotic drums delivered with Jekyl-and-Hyde tenacity, warping from chaotic metal grooves to punkier, driving beats with no shortage of double bass fills in between. The guitars twinkle and harmonize with the bass throughout, a sort of manic call and response between the two stringed instruments, before reaching a sudden resolve to close things out.
Talking with the band, they described their musical roots as a mix of ’60s guitar grandiosity and a background in metal drumming, particularly death/grind metal, both of which seem to translate swiftly into the math rock setting. They’ve gleaned styles from some of the genre’s juggernauts, including Covet, Chon, and Animals as Leaders. Besides the aforementioned bands, Cactus Portal is for fans of Floral, Pretend, Piglet, and Hollow Ran. Be on the lookout for more from this talented instrumental trio, as they are only just beginning their musical conquest. Author: C. Semsey