Taarka: The Martian Picture Soundtrack

By Team JamBase Jan 22, 2008 6:20 am PST

By: Dennis Cook

Dark slippers turn sprightly out of the gate on Taarka‘s oddly titled but warmly enveloping new album, The Martian Picture Soundtrack (Frogville). Enion Pelta-Tiller (violins, vocals) and David Tiller (guitars, mandolin, vocals), both members of ThaMuseMeant, follow a slippery, seductive muse here, dipping into Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France, acoustic music pioneers Oregon, ’70s folk-rock and more. In their capable hands, strings move freely about the sonic spectrum, yet always in an inviting, fragrant way. “Subtle” is a word tossed around a bit too freely when describing music that strays outside established boundaries but in this case the descriptor truly fits. The Martian Picture Show settles down upon the listener like a warm, unexpected rain.

The propulsion like a breeze at your heels is provided by percussionist Dale Largent, who lends the music a Shakti feel. The more dexterous technical moments by the others also tap into some of the quiet power John McLaughlin stirred with that band. Opener “The Creepy” suggests a late winter’s night visitation by Django and his violin foil, Stéphane Grappelli. That skips into “50 Miles,” a bittersweet slice of folk-pop where Enion Pelta-Tiller sparkles in every way – her lovely, cracked voice and aching violin burrowing into nutmeat of solitude. “Flight of the Snowbird” is bluegrass by way of cumin-scented caravans. The violin duet take on Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” by Pelta-Tiller and guest Casey Driessen drifts like a snowflake falling into sunlight. Stunning. That Taarka is able to follow such a moment with a workingman’s corker like “Mr. In The Plant” – a quieter cousin to “Big Boss Man,” “16 Tons” and Woody Guthrie’s catalog – speaks volumes about their skill at adapting seemingly disparate elements into a very appealing whole. The Martian Picture Show is sustenance that stays with you long after you’ve pushed away from the table.

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