TAARKA
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TAARKA

Lyons, Colorado, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2002 | INDIE

Lyons, Colorado, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2002
Band Americana Bluegrass

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Aug
04
TAARKA @ Outdoor Project

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Mar
22
TAARKA @ The Lyric

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States

Fort Collins, Colorado, United States

Music

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TAARKA/Adventures in Vagabondia: This is the kind of alt.Americana I've been waiting on for years so it makes me happy/sad that after a decade together and six albums, I'm finally getting my first taste of them. They are so eclectic that even though there's a consistency to their work, you almost feel like you are listening to a bunch of different acts. As equally inspired by Darol Anger as they are Jay Unger, this bunch can have hokum and folk music from Mars resting comfortably next to each other inside of the same song. A pair of super pickers in the traditional of what Anger, Marshall and the rest were doing 30 years ago at Rounder (which no one knew what to do with then), this acoustic, kitchen sink fusion will blow your mind. A totally killer date by a duo that started out as gypsy jazz buskers in New York, they are masters of the organic stuff you hear at local arts festivals that always leaves you feeling that the band was at least well intentioned. Yep, there are people that can play that stuff and play it with the right touch. Now, if you need to pack some killer tunes for that next hoedown on Jupiter, be sure to pack this. A real game changer. - Midwest Record


"The Martian Picture Soundtrack is sustenance that stays with you long after you've pushed away from the table."

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. - Jambase.com


"The band was able to manipulate their sound across a spectrum, ranging from Celtic Honky-Tonk, to a sort of Calypso-Klezmer, to tango, to Turkish folk music and then back to a bluegrassy jazz reminiscent of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones."

Here in Eugene, there's a place called Cafe Lucky Noodle, which serves both Italian and Pan-Asian cuisine for those who value a high degree of variety in their dining. Taarka does for the ears what Lucky Noodle does for the palette. The band was able to manipulate their sound across a spectrum, ranging from Celtic Honky-Tonk, to a sort of Calypso-Klezmer, to tango, to Turkish folk music and then back to a bluegrassy jazz reminiscent of Bela Fleck & The Flecktones.

Taarka's performance was solely instrumental. What Taarka lacked in vocals they made up for in pure instrumental talent. Enion Pelta-Tiller was able to tell stories of utter joy and complete sadness through the strings of her violin in a much more effective way than words ever could have. They started off their set with their fiery track "I Wish You Were Beer," in which they moved from a bouncy mandolin solo to a fluttering violin solo to a jazzy bass plucking solo and onto a grooving hand drum solo.

By relying on their instruments alone to personify their sound, Taarka was successful in creating emotional variety. Dale Largent used chimes and shells while playing two hand drums to animate the Turkish beats in Taarka's performance of "Semaii Aztlan." On top of Largent's percussion, the mix of Jason Flores' stand-up bass, David Tiller's mandolin, and Pelta-Tiller's emotion-wrenching klezmer violin, created a rich, bold, Middle-Eastern blend.

David Tiller was able to captivate the audience with fast playing mandolin that cascaded up and down so fast, he needed to wear a mandolin strap slung over his shoulder. He produced a caustic creepy mandolin tune reminiscent of a song you might hear in a cartoon or perhaps an old Nintendo game. Taarka showed their instrumental mastery on the last song, "The Invisible Banjo," as they imitated the banjo sound with a complicated mix of high-pitched violin and plunking mandolin.

- West Coast Performer Magazine


The band... gave a mighty performance that left few off their feet.

As the night progressed, more souls filtered in from the Yonder Mountain show, bolstering the friendly, good-natured crowd. After a brief sound check, Taarka was ready to show us just why they're the newest, hottest ticket on the festival circuit. The stylistic variety and expert musicianship that quickly burst from the stage was an experience to behold: blending elements from bluegrass, jazz, klezmer, Celtic, sufi, Afro-Cuban, gypsy and American folk, their instrumental sound left no stoner unturned. James Whiton's meaty double bass work propped the music on solid ground, busting walking jazz-style lines, syncopated rhythms, flowing slides and percussive slaps with rugged abandonment and a flair for the bravado, yet keeping it all neatly in the groove. Operating an extensive trap set-like percussion array, Jarrod Kaplan displayed a beaming smile while beating on djembes and dumbecs and shaking the shakers, underlying the multi-faceted music with the perfect beat and feel. David Tiller stood at the foot of the stage, alternating between a traditional and octave mandolin, molding the songs with accompanying chords and rapidly picked leads while Enion Pelta ripped through violent swaths of melody, Strauss-esque classical strains and quick playful jabs through her pan-dimensional fiddle playing. Their performance was a high-energy romp filled with jubilant peaks and breath-catching valleys, sudden impeccably calculated tempo changes, crescendos and mysterious explorations. At one point, the group broke it down to a nebulous chaos section, conjuring sounds reminiscent of a tortured sea creature being beaten with a bag of oranges. The band, appreciative of the fervor shown by the Tuesday night audience, gave a mighty performance that left few off their feet. I was so captured by Taarka's music that I was even able to ignore the gaudy, arrhythmic hippy dancing.
- Synthesis


Fans of David Grisman or early Bela Fleck should love this second release from Taarka. The band, hailing from Portland Oregon, is comprised of Enion Pelta on violin, David Tiller on mandolin (formerly with ThaMuseMeant), Jason Flores on acoustic bass, and Jarrod Kaplan on percussion and hand drums (also in Hanuman and Trillian Green). Though they've only been playing together since 2002, Taarka has been making a name for themselves playing many well known festivals on the west coast including, High Sierra Music Festival and Oregon Country Fair to name a few. Pelta, Tiller, and Kaplan are original members, with Flores being the newest addition to the band, replacing James Whiton (original bass player and formerly with the now defunct Apricot Jam).

This music could be described as gypsy jazz, though at times it incorporates Middle Eastern, traditional folk, and even Klezmer. The songs exhibit quite a range of influences and styles, and each individual player is extremely proficient on their respective instruments. Most of the tunes are original instrumentals, and each band member is a contributor to the writing of the album.

The title tune, "Even Odd Bird," written by Tiller, interweaves violin and mandolin to produce a beautiful tapestry and creates the feeling of a romp through a flower field. The most "jam-like" track is probably Kaplan's "Fat Chance," a groovy dance beat accented occasionally by vocal scatting. The vision of swirling veils dancing on the wind is the image produced by the Middle Eastern-influenced "Semall Aztlan," written by Flores. The third track, "Kudzu," written again by Kaplan and also a Trillian Green standard, finds the band evoking Bela Fleck's syncopated jazzgrass. "Dance for Impeachment" has Pelta and Tiller playing a sweet Klezmer melody accented by Spanish maracas. The Enion Pelta penned "March Waltz" sounds like it could be played at a Jewish wedding, though it would probably end up being a pretty funky wedding. Accompanying these original tunes is a traditional Indian folk song, "Dhun", which allows the band to show their softer side.

This CD covers all bases for the jazzgrass, folk, or new acoustic fan, and should appeal to all those who appreciate joyful musical diversity, sweet melodies, and solid musicianship. - Jambase


"...uplifting, high-energy spirit..."

Rising out of the ashes of ThaMuseMeant, Apricot Jam and Hanuman, a new musical beast by the name of Taarka has been roaming the West this summer. With performances at the High Sierra Festival, Northwest String Summit at Horning’s Hideout, Oregon Country Fair and Seattle’s Bumbershoot Fest, they are making a big impression on the scene especially for such a newly formed act. The all-star line-up of instrumentalists includes Dave Tiller of ThaMuseMeant on mandolins, Jarrod Kaplan of Hanuman and Trillian Green on percussion, James Whiton of Apricot Jam on stand-up bass, and Enion Pelta, an amazing gypsy fiddler who was oblivious to the jamband scene before hooking up with Tiller in New York City for a stint with Brooklyn Brown Grass. Classically trained on the instrument from the age of three, Pelta stunned audiences at the High Sierra Festival this summer when she played a workshop with fiddle legend Darol Anger and showed skills comparable to those of the much older and more experienced master.

Early this year Tiller and Pelta headed to the Northwest to find the rest of their band for an eclectic gypsy jazz project that they envisioned. They could not have found more talented collaborators than Whiton and Kaplan. Kaplan is well known to those in the Northwest as the high-energy hand drummer from Trilian Green and Hanuman. If you ever wondered who that extra percussionist was sitting in with your favorite band at High Sierra or any given festival, chances are it was Jarrod. When guitar icon Fareed Haque needed a stand-in percussionist to play with his group in Portland recently, it was Kaplan who filled in and more than stood his own, playing unfamiliar and incredibly complex tunes. Whiton played with the folk-rock trio Apricot Jam, a popular fixture on the New Mexico jamband scene until they moved to Portland in ’96 and then disbanded in ’98. Whiton is known for his percussive style of playing, which is exciting to watch and gives the band a little extra thump that helps keep the booty shaking.

As Apricot Jam’s star was fading in New Mexico, ThaMuseMeant was rising as the new hot band on the scene in the mid-‘90s. Dave Tiller became recognized as one of the finest mandolin pickers anywhere, and got the chance to play alongside people like Sam Bush, Leftover Salmon, The Slip and Yonder Mountain String Band. ThaMuseMeant played thousands of shows, wrote hundreds of songs (mostly due to the Dylanesque prodigious writing of Nathan Moore), and put out two albums on High Sierra Records before disbanding in February of 2001. Interestingly, the three main bands that Tiller, Kaplan and Whiton are known for playing with all succumbed to the infamous seven year itch.

Taarka’s excellent new self-released album catches the band playing a live acoustic set in the studio with no overdubs. It catches the uplifting, high-energy spirit that helped ensnare hundreds of onlookers and dancers in the meadow outside the main stage area at High Sierra, where the band set up unofficial late-night concerts. Col. Bruce Hampton was one of the many new fans the band gained at the High Sierra Festival - I heard him say they were the best band he saw at the fest (excluding, I assumed, the Code Talkers).

Fans of Bela Fleck will enjoy the masterful playing and eclectic compositions on this first effort. The album really showcases Pelta’s violin work, which I think evokes an incredibly wide range of emotions for an album without any lyrics. Tiller’s mandolin playing has improved since his days in ThaMuseMeant when he did double duty on the fiddle for some songs. This is no surprise to anyone who has spent any time with him, as he is a man obsessed with playing the mandolin. Practice consumes most of his waking hours and he does not even stop playing when he talks to you or drives his vehicle. (Luckily he has chosen a relatively small instrument and none of his auto accidents have resulted in serious injury.) Some fans, myself included, will probably miss the unique sound of Tiller’s electric mandolin on this album as it was made with all acoustic instruments, but he can be cajoled into playing the electric during Taarka’s live performances. I hope his playing will be featured more prominently in the mix on their next studio effort. - Jambase


"Taarka...one of acoustic music’s hottest up-and-coming bands."

Taarka is the name of one of acoustic music’s hottest up-and-coming bands. Taarka might be best described as an acoustic supergroup….imagine Django
Reinhardt playing with David Grisman. Taarka trods the back alleyways of gypsy music and twirls through fields of bluegrass, all the while swinging like the hippest of jazz cats. Their music takes us through a range of human emotion, from melancholy and sorrow to joy and rapture…[they focus] all their energy on a breathless synergy of sounds…culminating in an intensity rarely found in acoustic music.

Tiller and Pelta compliment each other as well, each providing nice backgrounds to the other’s solos. Pelta is perhaps the crown jewel of Taarka, as her playing is virtuosity in action. She can play absolutely haunting melodies, but also can rain pure bliss on audiences. Tiller uses his mandolin more as a classical instrument than a bluegrass one . While he can get down home at times, it seems Tiller approaches his instrument more as an entity with a mind of its own, and thus he does not fall prey to too many influences other than his own unique vision. Tiller’s mandolin style is one of the most original I’ve heard. - Flagstaff Live


Taarka - acoustic, classic, intelligent and funky as the proverbial motherfucker…an ensemble of classical, jazz, and folk musicians who use their skills and healthy dose of creativity to create music unlike anything you’ve ever heard. - Synthesis


"...rest assured ladies and gents, the music is in the hands of ascending masters."

On their newest studio release, Even Odd Bird, Taarka continues to refine and flesh out their twisting compositional music, introducing funk to traditional music from the east. The word for this goes way beyond fusion. If they didn’t know what they were doing, this kind of play could get dangerous…but rest assured ladies and gents, the music is in the hands of ascending masters. - The Northwest Sun



Seed Gathering for a Wintergarden (Frogville). Taarka
The rejuvenation—and in some cases, reinvention—of the traditional string band during the past few years is one of the most exciting developments in the string world. The Republic of Strings, Crooked Still, and the Mammals are among those string bands that in recent years have paired virtuosity with youthful energy, playing both old and new tunes on a variety of instrumental groupings.

Taarka fits the bill.

Seed Gathering for a Wintergarden is the fourth album from this Colorado-based quartet: Enion Pelta-Tiller (five-string violin, vocals), Daniel Plane (cello, vocals), David Tiller (mandolin, tenor guitar, vocals), and Troy Robey (bass, vocals).

The material ranges from the straight-ahead bluegrass of Plane’s original “Michael’s Raindrop” (with strong arco bass lines) to Pelta-Tiller’s intense chamber-folk instrumental “A Whole New You” to a cover of Celtic fiddler Liz Carroll’s “Lost in the Loop.”

There are Gypsy-jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, chamber-folk, jazz, rock, and even Indian influences, all distilled through a gifted group that has toured extensively on the jam-band circuit, but who at its best sounds unlike anyone else in that genre. Taarka’s music is unadulterated by commerciality, unpolished by some standards, but always engaging and even provocative. Case in point: listen to the richly textured chamber-jazz string arrangement, burning rock guitar, and Pelta-Tiller’s aching vocal on “Vestal Flame,” which takes its title and lyrics from Josephine Preston Peabody’s remarkable poem about a spiritual seeker burned by life’s travails.

It’s one of the year’s best songs, comparable to Arcade Fire’s best work.

Violinist Pelta-Tiller, who wrote or co-wrote five of the 12 tunes on the album, is a classically trained violinist and violist. She attended the Peabody Institute and worked toward a viola performance degree before hopping onboard this musical caravan.

Cellist Plane studied classical music at the Interlochen Academy and later attended the Berklee College of Music, where he studied with Eugene Friesen and Rushad Eggleston. Bassist Robey has played electric bass and studied double bass. He competed in 2007 and 2008 in the international Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Moscow, Idaho, and won the collegiate-level bass soloist award both years. Together with mandolinist and guitarist Tiller—who honed his chops studying classical and jazz guitar as well as bluegrass mandolin—this eclectic quartet has harvested a bountiful feast of new string-band music.


- Strings Magazine


Listening to the mad Gypsy sounds of Taarka's Seed Gathering for a Winter Garden is like a temporary escape from the mundane modern world into an exotic caravan traveling a fantastic world. The instrumentals range from the frenetic bluegrass stylings of the opening track, "Artic Meltdown," to the insistent, intricate interplay of guitar and violin on "A Whole New You." The vocal tracks are all smoky, seductive nuggets of Gypsy folk pop with dark undercurrents, similar to a less melodramatic DeVotchKa. There's not a bad track on the album, and the band wisely wraps with "Vestal Flame," easily the best of the batch. Blending Old World exoticism with thoroughly American folk and just a hint of a modern edge, Taarka conjures up a rich, detailed and delightful landscape.

- The Westword (the Denver Paper)


Discography

Adventures In Vagabondia (January 2013)
Seed Gathering for a Winter Garden (2009)
The Martian Picture Soundtrack (2007)
The Trailer EP (2007)
Even Odd Bird (2004)
Man Chasing Woman Around Table (2003)
TAARKA Live in the Studio (2002)

Photos

Bio

From the acoustic-rich hills of Colorado comes the accomplished alt. Americana band Taarka. Much like the sizzle of spices and the vibrating of strings implied by its Indian name, the band’s sound embodies passion, energy, and taste. Derived from members’ diverse influences – bluegrass, pop rock, folk, old-time, Gypsy-Jazz, and Celtic – the band ignites audiences with music that SF Weekly called “a collision of Django Reinhardt and David Grisman.”

An established performer at prominent festivals nationwide (High Sierra, Pagosa Folk n' Bluegrass, Mendocino Music Festival, Berkeley World Music Festival), Taarka continues to expand its appeal – recent tours have taken the band abroad to Spain and Canada – and its eclectic catalogue. Its latest album, Fading Mystery (March 10, 2017), is an organic collection of original music with gypsy jazz, pop and traditional inspirations. Featured tracks include the driving “Carried Away,” the jolly, folk-leaning “Polyamorous Polly Ann,” and the ethereal title track.


Its seventh studio album to date, Faded Mystery was recorded live near the banks of eastern Virginia’s Potomac River and masterfully produced by its own David Tiller (vocals, mandolin, electric guitar), who founded Taarka in 2001 with wife and musical partner Enion Pelta-Tiller (vocals, violin). Members also include award-winning jazz upright bassist Troy Robey (bass) and guitar prodigy Mike Robinson (guitar, vocals).

A musician and performer from his youth, Tiller is a master of mandolin, bass, tenor guitar, and bouzouki. Pelta-Tiller was born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Calif. A classically trained five-string violinist and vocalist, Pelta-Tiller has a voice that Grateful Web hailed, “reminiscent of Regina Spektor, with the vulnerability and slight hint of defiance that the comparison implies.”  

After meeting in New York City, the young couple moved west as Taarka and, since 2006, has made their home in the music scene of Lyons, Colorado. “Their voices sound fantastic together …,” wrote No Depression regarding the great talent of this most musical duo, “Enion is a marvelous violin player, and David is her equal on mandolin.”

As a band, they have shared the stage with artists like Grateful Dead, Phish, Yonder Mountain String Band, Sufjan Stevens, and The Decembrists. Just this year, Taarka was featured in the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival and as part of the renowned “Bluegrass Underground.”

Taarka’s previous releases include See Gather for a Winter Garden (2010), Martian Picture Soundtrack (2007), Even Odd Bird (2004), Taarka (2002), Making Tracks Home (2015) and Adventures in Vagabondia (January 2013), from which the powerful acoustic rock instrumental, “A Whole New You,” was chosen and included as part of the soundtrack to “1971,” a nationally released, feature-length Maximum Pictures documentary.

Taarka’s live shows are euphonious affairs by pickers who are “gravity-defying in their dexterity” (R2 Magazine, UK). From their cords and from their strings, they envelop audiences with energy and emotion enough to light any fire.


Band Members