On their new album Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, (released 9/28/18) New York-bred band TAUK offer an unsettling but ultimately exhilarating look at artificial intelligence and its potential to upend our world. With its dynamic sense of tension and cinematic mastery of mood, TAUK’s all-instrumental blend of progressive rock, hip-hop, and jazz proves to be the perfect backdrop for such explorations, giving way to an album that’s both powerfully hypnotic and intensely thought-provoking.
Equally inspired by classic sci-fi like Blade Runner and more recent films like Ex Machina, Shapeshifter II: Outbreak embeds that narrative into TAUK’s most sonically adventurous, emotionally expansive work to date. Free-flowing yet elaborately composed, Shapeshifter II: Outbreak came to life in collaboration with TAUK’s longtime cohort Robert Carranza—a Grammy Award-winning producer/mixer/engineer also known for his work The Mars Volta, Ozomatli, Marilyn Manson, and Taj Mahal. In a departure from their previous releases (including 2016’s Sir Nebula), the band shunned the typical studio environment and holed up for weeks in a long-abandoned, century-old home that drummer Isaac Teel describes as “the Jumanji house meets Addams Family meets Amityville Horror.” Located in their homeland of Long Island, the house turned out to be the ideal spot for their makeshift studio, allowing for a creativity-enhancing seclusion. “Overall the whole process was incredibly organic—there were no constrictions as far as time or space, nothing ever felt forced,” says bassist Charlie Dolan. “There was a greater feeling of possibility, and it ended up being a really liberating experience for all of us.” Guitarist Matt Jalbert adds: “The location definitely added to the vibe of everything we were going for. It was like we set up a laboratory in the middle of nowhere and shut off the rest of the world, which really helped get us into a specific headspace.”
True to its thematic terrain, Shapeshifter II: Outbreak endlessly blurs the boundaries between organic and electronic with TAUK broadening their sonic palette to include a vast spectrum of synth sounds and programmed effects (such as those exquisitely eerie vocal samples heard in “Prelude”). In sculpting the album’s intricate arrangements, TAUK called on such esteemed musicians as The Naughty Horns, Ghost-Note’s Nate Werth (a percussionist who’s also played with David Crosby, Q-Tip, and Snarky Puppy), and Juan Alderete (longtime bassist for Racer X and The Mars Volta).
Throughout Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, TAUK reveal the potent chemistry they discovered in childhood, when longtime friends Dolan, Jalbert, and Carter formed their first band in seventh grade. After playing together in various projects, the trio brought Teel into the fold in 2012, cementing the final lineup. Since then, TAUK have shared stages with acts like Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, and Lettuce, appeared at festivals like Electric Forest and Bonnaroo, and earned acclaim from major outlets like the Washington Post (who praised TAUK for “creating a hard-charging, often melodic fusion that—thanks to a penchant for improv—offers limitless possibilities”). As Teel points out, the band’s incessant touring over the years has significantly strengthened their musical connection. “The four of us as individuals are all very animated souls in our own right,” he says. “We each have our ideas and our perspectives, and when it all comes together, it creates this collective statement that takes on a life of its own.”
Glide is psyched to premiere TAUK’s latest “TAUK DAUK “a recap of two days in the life of TAUK from Texas’ Waterloo Festival to their performance at Red Rocks the following night opening for STS9. Unlike other improvisation live bands that rely on trite funk and silly gimmicks, Tauk takes a heady prog approach to its musicianship while entangling jazz intricacies and numerous instrumental exploits.
“We were more excited than anything,” recalls guitarist Matt Jalbert. “Playing a late night festival spot and then heading straight to the airport, you’re running on fumes. But once we got to Red Rocks we didn’t feel tired at all. We were all just pumped about it. We had an hour to take it all in on stage. It went by so quick but the feeling on that stage will stick with us for a long time.”
This wasn’t the first time TAUK has played the esteemed Morrison, CO venue but it has it always felt like hallowed grounds upon arrival and made for epic takes on the band’s song catalog.
“There’s really no other place like it,” adds Jalbert. “We’ve been all over the country and Red Rocks is truly special. It is made for music. Being outside, looking out at the towering rocks and seeing people having the time of their lives creates such an amazing energy that transfers to the music. This was the first time we got to play after the sun went down. It was great to see the lights fill that place up.
As for other live shows they have played and seen this year- there always appears to be a healthy supply of inspiration to go around on their most recent sumemr tour.
“There’s been so many incredible shows this year This tour has been going great. We had an amazing weekend in Charleston, SC. 420 Fest earlier this year was great, Gramercy Theater in NY, The Lodge Room in LA. We’ve been having quite the year.”
As for shows as a fan, Jalbert throws out an obscure but golden choice – Grammy winning jazz artist Robert Glasper.
“I got to check out the first show of his residency at The Blue Note before we left for tour and that show had a huge impression on me,” says Jalbert. “Derrick Hodge on bass and Chris Dave on drums. The band grooves so well, but it was their use of space that really stuck with me.