Shapeshifter II: Outbreak
New York City’s TAUK returns with Shapeshifter II: Outbreak, a collection of songs that span from the breathtaking eclecticism of Screaming Headless Torsos to the intrepid athleticism of Dream Theater, to hip-hop’s highest heights and funk’s freakiest frankness. Oh, and throw in a dash of space rock as imagined by a group of guys who grew up in the post-lysergic, post-body paint world. It’s all done with the utmost taste, of course.
Keyboardist Alric “A.C.” Carter weaves space, sometimes disorienting John Carpenter-style lines on the New Wave-y space jam “Recreational Outrage,” gets in touch with his sensitive musical cosmonaut self via “Convoy” and lends an extra dose of authenticity to the vintage fusion pastiche “Ratchet.” On each, he reveals himself as a soulful player whose knack for finding the precisely correct moments to blaze and lay back comes off as a rare commodity on contemporary records of this ilk. In the latter track one is reminded of Patrice Rushen and Alan Zavod’s work with peak era Jean Luc Ponty. Carter is never less than himself, though, especially on the ballad-ish beauty “Pioneer,” where his lines evoke both the essence of earthly autumn and the possibilities inherent in the cosmos.
Joining him are drummer Isaac Teel, bassist Charlie Dolan and guitarist Matt Jalbert. The quartet forges a partnership in which each instrument is given its proper voice and each composition is honed to its finest possible point. This is evident on “CMF 9000,” “Pitter Pattern” (which is either a highlight of TAUK live shows or is completely absent from the stage) and the closing adventure funk of “Upside Down.”
Perhaps the best compliment one can give to the record comes not in the categories of individual or ensemble musicianship or even the fine writing. Instead, one commends TAUK for creating a work that has a broad appeal (you don’t need a musical pedigree to listen) that loses none of its artistic integrity along the way.
It’s refreshing to hear a contemporary act of this caliber that doesn’t adhere to a single genre but, instead, creates its own. It’s also exhilarating to hear a player like Carter seeking new vocabulary for idioms that, in the hands of lesser players, can sound spent. Better still? TAUK has a rich discography already in place that one can dig into for further perspective. Smart music that never ridicules you for wanting tap your feet instead of wrack your brain.