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(Independent release as broadcast on WVIA-FM 7/12/2023)
The jam band scene has spawned a good number of interesting groups, whose music probably would not have been widely heard were it not for those who have become fans of rock bands that do improvisation. The scene goes back to the Grateful Dead, and their legion of fans who made their concerts an experience, usually chemically enhanced for many in the audience. But in recent years, groups like Phish, the String Cheese Incident and Umphrey’s McGee combined first-rate musicianship with a tendency for some extended improvisations that don’t require drugs to appreciate. One of those groups who have been making interesting, often improvisational, electric, and in this case, instrumental music, is TAUK.
Hailing from Montauk, Long Island, hence the name T-A-U-K, three of the four band members have been making music together since grade school. They specialize an art rock and jazz-influenced fusion sound, marked by outstanding musicianship, and sophisticated compositions, but with enough of a rock beat that they have attracted wider audiences especially on the jam band circuit. They released their first album in 2010, which featured vocals with creative lyrics. But their lead vocalist departed for medical reasons, and they continued on for a dozen years as an instrumental group, touring widely and releasing a succession of studio and live albums. The group also appeared on our Homegrown Music series at WVIA in 2012 and 2014 in studio sessions and a live concert.
Now TAUK has joined forces with a new vocalist Kanika Moore, who writes the lyrics, and they called the project TAUK Moore, which is also the name of their new release. Ms. Moore is a singer-songwriter from South Carolina and has been the front woman for a group called Doom Flamingo, described as a electro-pop. Ms. Moore gives a soulful pop-influenced texture to TAUK’s often musically elaborate compositions. The result is an interesting and engaging album in which the musical pairing turns out to be quite compatible. The compositions tend to be shorter than some of the instrumental works of past TAUK albums, but there’s still a lot of interesting musical ingredients in the arrangements, with a fair amount of variety in the textures from funk, to art-rock, to a ballad or two, to some atmospheric ambiance and instances of cranking it up and guitar shredding. Also, in a first for the band, there are also added horns and strings on a couple of the tracks. The TAUK personnel remains intact, with keyboard man Alric Carter, guitarist Matt Jalbert, bassist Charlie Dolan, and their outstanding drummer Isaac Teel, who is not afraid to use some electronic percussion creatively.
Opening is a piece that typifies the interesting blend on this album. Supernova is a kind of love-song that can features both a funky beat and some atmospheric keyboard sounds from Alric Carter. <<>>
With a more aggressive sound is a track called STFU. Ms. Moore can crank it up vocally as well. <<>>
A piece that bears more of a resemblance to TAUK’s instrumental music is Daydream. Lyrically, it’s another rather roundabout love song. <<>>
The horns make an appearance on a tune called Step Back. It’s an interesting blend with a partially rapped vocal, presenting a dichotomy between the classic-style horn arrangements and the spacey synthesizer lines. <<>>
Flex is another piece that combines the different facets of the band, with an arrangement that runs though funk, prog rock, and some metal. <<>>
Perhaps the most eclectic track on the album is Hallucinogen, which jumps from a kind of electronica sound of Thievery Corporation to hints of an African beat. <<>>
As a further contrast to that is Among the Living a sort of ballad with electronic textures but with also a string section. <<>>
The album ends with a cover of a Bjork tune Army of Me with a darker sound, both musically and lyrically. <<>>
TAUK Moore the new joint project by the progressive jam band TAUK and vocalist Kanika Moore is an interesting and engaging album that shows a lot of eclecticism. TAUK has been functioning as an instrumental group for a dozen years, and Ms. Moore adds a different perspective. I am reminded of the recent album by fusion keyboard man Scott Kinsey and vocalist Mer Sal, which also combined musically sophisticated parts by someone who usually plays instrumentally with a lyric-writing vocalist. In both cases, it provided an interesting perspective, to the creative music.
Our grade for sound quality is a “B,” with a decent mix, but demerits for the amount of volume compression, with the audio sounding cranked up more than necessary.
It can either be rewarding or disappointing when a group branches out into something different. In this case, it’s the former, with both the band and vocalist Kanika Moore stretching out stylistically, and handling it very well.
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