“HEADROOM” – Album Review + “The Chemist” Exclusive Stream
By Tripp Demoss
I’ve been listening to TAUK ever since I saw them open for Perpetual Groove at the Hamilton in 2012- they were touring on the heels of releasing their first album “Pull Factors” and they handed out copies for free at the merch table. I loved them from the start. (Heck, they played as good of a show that night as PGroove did!).
TAUK has released HEADROOM exclusively on 1320 Records! Grab your copy here – here.
I’m drawn to TAUK in that their stuff is primarily instrumental. It’s driven by the colors and fills of AC Carter’s keyboards and Matt Jalbert’s soaring guitar, together with Charlie Dolan’s bass riffs and Isaac Teel’s rapid-fire drums.
Tauk bills themselves as funk driven but, boy, they’re the best new prog-rock band out there. Listen to the opening track on their new two-disc live album release “Headroom” and you’ll see what I mean.
“Mokuba,” off the “Collisions” album, sort of has an Eastern flavor to it before we’re treated to some of AC Carter’s best synth solos, rumbling organ backing, and Jalbert’s guitar work. This is just great Symphonic Prog.
“Afro-Tonic” gets us back into a funk and rock groove- Charlie’s bass feels like a lead guitar on this one, and Teel rages throughout- quite the rhythm section.
The next track moves us right along with textbook TAUK- “Sweet Revenge”- reminds me of this symphonic rock band Camel that they sound like.
And it just keeps coming. “In the Basement of the Alamo” features Charlie and Matt in syncopation, AC using the whole tableau, and Isaac moving back and forth from the guitars and keys in meter. You hear a brief “Elizabeth Reed” tease here ya know (not really, but you get my drift).
“On Guard” gets us to some great eclectic prog: poly-rhythms, alternating tonalities, but all of it keeping a spontaneous character.
“Rainwalk” and “Districts” are jazz-fusion at its finest- less Zappa, more Return to Forever. AC’s use of the electric piano/synth combo is reminiscent of Chick and Herbie’s improvisations.
“In Bloom-Never Remember” is the band’s fantastic instrumental interpretation of the Nirvana radio staple with their own flavor mixed right in. One of their more famous tunes, this take on a grunge rock classic shows the effortless versatility in TAUK’s style.
“Collateral,” featured also on the “Collisions” album, has got this great space rock, dark thing going but they weave some jazz fusion right into it. Just a barn burner.
“Dirty Mouth” opens disc two; featured on TAUK’s “Homunculus,” it’s a contemplative, serious jam. Matt rips it apart like Robert Fripp on this one.
“The Chemist,” another Homunculus track, weaves between jazz fusion, funk, and pop- there is some great bass/drums/guitar interplay here while the keys add some nice colors. If you had to show someone the consummate elegance of the group’s technical proficiency, this would be the example I’d use.
“The Spot” is just pure jazz fusion- the whole ethos emanates from the alumni of Miles Davis’ various band iterations, and you get that same vibe, albeit with an electronic focus.
“Friction” moves us back to “Collisions,” and you know, there’s something about that soundscaping synth, then the bass heavily plucking away before the groove sets in that makes you anticipate the jam to burst out quickly. Yowzah!
“Carpentino’s Rebirth” is more classic TAUK. Teel’s drum work really highlights this performance for me- but the band also utilizes a melody that is complex and moving.
“Tumbler” may be the most thinky piece on the entire album. It is real psychadelic jam-rock, not too fast paced, with nice solos by the guitar and keys, and a pleasing theme providing the backdrop for a wonderful improvisational vehicle.
Finally, there is something for everyone on “Battle Without Honor or Humanity.” Replete with horns, the band hones in on a New Orleans sound piece de resistance. It’s a finale that befits the character of the whole album- rumbling organ, piercing guitar, thumping bass and smashing percussion. This piece shows why you should run, not walk, to your nearest TAUK show.