Last fall, while Alric “A.C.” Carter’s band Tauk was on tour, he snuck away to see a movie: Blade Runner 2049. He’d never seen the original, but he loved the sequel—particularly the music.
“It just evoked a certain kind of emotion,” says Carter, who plays keyboards in the jazzy, proggy, hip-hop instrumental fusion ensemble. “You feel like you’re part of the experience. I liked how the music hits and breathes with the visuals.”
It wasn’t until the following year that the film’s influence fully manifested itself. Tauk’s latest recording project became two concept albums that explored artificial intelligence and the moral ambiguity of technology.
It wasn’t so much that the foursome was trying to make a particular point about AI; rather, they were contemplating the possibilities.
“We think about what we’ve seen in our lifetime, and the potential for what’s actually possible. Certain things that were impossible are a lot more feasible these days,” Carter says. “There’s good and bad to everything.”
The two albums that resulted were Shapeshifter I: Construct, which came out in April, and Shapeshifter II: The Outbreak, which was released in September.
Unlike something that Rush or King Crimson might do, this package of futuristic, fantastic-themed albums has no actual stories, since the band is entirely instrumental. What the listener is left with is a mood and a feeling. Carter says that they are happy to keep the whole thing opaque.
“We want to be able to paint these different soundscapes and allow our listeners to have their own unique experiences,” he says.
Whether or not you are creating a story in your mind while listening to it, the music certainly sounds sci-fi. There’s a strange juxtaposition as Carter’s keys spit out spacey textures and squeal with an almost robot-like, pitch-altering vocal-sounding lead while the rhythm section grooves together in a loose funky jazzy vibe that’s accented with a heavy dose of math rock smarts. It’s kind of like hearing a robot wrestle with its own imperfect humanity.
“I create the soundscapes and textures so that the mood can be right. It’s similar to, say, lighting incense for meditation,” Carter says. “The guitar is going to sound like a guitar, and bass and drums for the most part sound like that. But you have so much range dynamically as a keyboard player.”
The record is a first for the band in that it was recorded not in a proper studio, but a house where they could work uninterrupted for weeks on end. This particular house was creepy, which may have added to the overall cinematic, foreboding sound of the music.
“It was an abandoned house that no one had lived in for 40 years. Paintings suspended on the walls, almost falling off. Dusty. We set up in the living room, our sound board was in the kitchen. We made it work, but it was a vibe,” Carter says.
The intention was to create a single album, but they came up with so much good material that they split it into two, grouping songs together that seemed to intuitively match. The first album has a tense, contemplative sound to it, while the second one has a lot of momentum. It could easily be the soundtrack to a flying-car chase scene.
The group’s natural tendency toward genre-mashing has only increased since its inception a decade ago. On these records, they continue to explore the line separating musical style as they ponder robot life. The two concepts complete each other, and make for an overall dynamic instrumental record.
“We take on many different genres, ideas and approaches as far as styles go that we try to mix and make our own,” Carter says. “We feel like the songs that we have on this record are very cinematic and would fit in with a lot of movies and visuals and things of that nature.”
Tauk performs at 9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26 at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 423-1338.