Album Review

Taarka Brings Spices: Post Flood, Album's Hot Seeds of Poetry Sow Melodic Waves

Taarka - Fading Mystery

Taarka with the Author, (l. to r.) Troy Robey, David Tiller, Enion Pelta-Tiller, Ron Wray at the FAI Conference, KC (Photo by Aesop Tiller)

The Colorado band, Taarka, taking its name from Indian spices, lost everything a few years back. When their Lyons home was completely overwhelmed by flood waters, the young couple with small son had to start all over. At the core of rebuilding was their music, and they made sure it didn’t suffer.

David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller, who comprise the artistic center of Taarka continued to play and write music, replace equipment as needed, and tour. At this end of things, their new album “Fading Mystery,” released a few days ago on March 10, is another manifestation of their success. It is a cohesive work continuing Taarka’s exploration of magic and discovery in music. It incorporates musics as diverse as bluegrass, gypsy, folk, and jazzy rock or rocky jazz.

David and Enion come well-skilled, each playing a variety of largely acoustic instruments. He plays mandolin and electric guitar, and she plays 5-string violin on the album. He saw a good thing when he saw it, says he knew when he first saw her that he would marry her. They haven’t looked back, despite impediments like a massive flood or the challenge of parenthood. The later has slowed them a bit, only in the sense that they’ve cut back on touring after spending the bright, energetic Aesop’s first years on the road with him. They’re still touring, but not as much for now, while Aesop’s in elementary school.

Adding to the album’s rich musicality are band members Troy Robey on bass and Mike Robinson on guitar and harmony vocals.

On the side, David and Enion provide music lessons, and you can learn from them on their variety of instruments, whether live or on Skype. Their rates are reasonable, and I’m thinking of taking David’s distance guitar lessons myself.

Not only that, the CDs come in pretty wrappings, as the album illustrations add art of their own. And on this one, one of their favorite artists painted Enion’s naked body to blend as part of the exterior of the new CD case. A dark shadow of David drawn to dance wizard-like across the same exterior, adds to a vibe that is at once mythic and spice-like.

They’ve had an energetic, ambitious, and willing-to-explore musical history. This album may take things further. Fading Mystery is a remarkable work. Enion tells me that the opening song, Carried Away, is an effort to sing her way past their tragic happenings and into the vibrant life ahead. It’s one of those sustained riffs that feels like a familiar tune even though its brand-new. I find myself singing along as I move into the day, even with the CD no longer playing.

Carried away, carried away/It’s time we got carried away/ To the hills where the blackbird flies/Where the stones have ears and the sky has eyes

After that, then David takes off, with a tune about a lover who in a polyamorous way, runs off with other men throughout their adventurous life together, has children with them, only to return to the doting paramour at home, whose child with him is by then ten.

She was as innocent as a Lily, And innocent as a child./She’d follow her heart to the ends of the earth/If a gentleman was beguiled./And when she returned to me, My child was already 10./She had three others on her back,/Each one from a different friend./Oh, Poly Ann/I can’t deny my pain,/Each time you walk out that door again,/Oh Polly Ann, Like heated honey in my hands.

No one can “hold her down,” he says of his polyamorous Polly Ann, with the stuff of fable and the mysteries of relationships carried along on another catchy melody. The song reminds me of a passed-down legend, not without tongue in cheek, describing a lover’s necessary ambivalence in the face of this conflict with his passion.

Each of the songs on the album has a story to tell and imparts a feeling of its own urgency. The two songs above that open this folky feast are good examples of that, There is a feeling of history fueled by contemporariness. Several instrumentals also show off the band’s extraordinary playing skills, while adding to the mood, the largely optimistic thrust this music makes.

You also find some major poetry going on, as in David’s “Sun and Rain,” seemingly addressed to their young son. This again is a song that sounds like I grew up with it, one that quickly comes to the tongue, and enters memory. There is also the remarkably pun-like and musical phrase (that I’ve never seen anything quite like) away from the sea son

As summer falls away from the sea son/and your endings are endlessly getting nearer/As desire burns and sweetens into treason/And ties our hands and cries to persevere./Because you may never never know/When love can stand up stronger/Don’t try so hard and I won’t get harder/Be the mothers sons and daughters to bring us back to the soil/Where the sun and rain it can fall

Or, you have Enion, continuing the poetry, ending the record with the title song, “Fading Mystery,” addressed to her brother, who died several year previous –

Remember walking through the redwood trees/The light in your eyes set fire to the breeze/Oh I was captured and never released/Til you were gone./And you, you were ill at ease/In a world where passion’s a slow death/Sometimes I think I can sense your breath/On the wind

Of another of her songs on this album, she said, “I'd say about “Don't Go” that it reflects a worldview I had to come to after the flood experience - that everything is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to, so in that sense, it is a song of both personal growth and expressive of a survival technique.”

The album is indeed a help, and an enjoyable one at that, in that old saw we all live with each day, survival, and, hopefully, another one we strive for, personal growth. Their seventh album is a culmination of this ultra-creative pair’s quest for beauty and expression of light in the midst of whatever darkness may befall them.