Fans of King Crimson
or Return to Forever
are as likely as those of Umphrey's McGee
to dote on TAUK whose third studio album, Sir Nebula
, interweaves hard rock, funk and spacey synths of all textures. Not anything groundbreaking to be sure, it's nevertheless a heady mix and it doesn't take long for the album to assault the mind and body: "Horizon" begins with gentle clean electric guitar strums before zooming with no little precision into a cosmic air quite vividly evoked by its album cover.
Recorded in concentrated studio sessions overseen by with Grammy Award-winning producer/mixer/engineer Robert Carranza (The Mars Volta, Ozomatli
, Big Jack Johnson
, Taj Mahal
), the quartet emphasized improvisation more than in past studio efforts, perhaps in direct response to their previous concert release Headroom
(Self Produced, 2015) and certainly "Informant" evinces that approach with its changing melodic and rhythmic motifs. The relatively abbreviated tracks-this one runs just over five minutes-makes such cuts ripe for jamming because the structures are so well defined.
TAUK display a palpable poise as they wend their way through tracks like "Time's Up" constantly aware of dynamics intrinsic to the music as well as the motion of each other as musicians. They appear to have no desire to flaunt technique for its own sake, so those musiclovers who thrive on flash my not be intoxicated by Sir Nebula
, but listeners who pride themselves on their patience will relish how this group constructs such tracks, particularly as the dozen cuts here are of a piece.
There is, however, a certainly predictability to the material here, evident on "Program Select," perhaps the downside to the intensive recording schedule. Altering so often between guitarist Matt Jalbert and keyboardist "A.C." Carter to open up numbers, doesn't necessarily provide the contrast of pacing necessary over the course of an entire album; this rhythm section of bassist Charlie Dolan and drummer Isaac Teel play with redoubtable power, so TAUK should allow them more room within the arrangements, as on "Resolve." The acoustic piano on "Darkwing" is ideally placed followed in short order by the equally judicious prominence of organ.
Thankfully, TAUK don't indulge in any of the high-minded pretensions that often afflict the progressive genre or proved to be the bane of jazz-rock fusion. There are no 'suites' or compositions such as "Rainwalk" divided into parts, a down to earth approach that again hearkens to the spontaneity the foursome strives for and the simplicity of the song titles: it's no accident Sir Nebula
's comprised of tracks whose names are verbs such as "Waver," "Resolve" and "Flashback."
Granted, there's a decidedly cerebral nature to those words, but with the volume up on those numbersa compulsion hard to resist given the immaculate clarity of the recordingthe sensation moves outside the mind, particularly during the first of those three, a sonic maelstrom if there ever was one.