TAUK at Moe's Alley, by Joshua Huver
TAUK (photo: Joshua Huver)

TAUK, the instrumental progressive quartet from Oyster Bay, NY, made their return to Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz last week as they continue their first headlining tour of the West Coast.

Touring on the strength of their most recent studio effort Sir Nebula, this fall marks the third time this year TAUK has rolled through the Bay Area. On November 3 at Moe’s, they drew a large crowd, considering it was a Wednesday night.

“We were here six years ago but we had a singer and a different drummer,” said guitarist Matt Jalbert during a break between songs. That may be the case, but the band’s current forward-driven mentality would be unattainable without the tight and booming artistry of current cornerstone drummer Isaac Teel. The band Jalbert is referencing is an older version of the band that almost feels like a different group entirely — they’re the same, but kind of not at all.

I’ve got double-digit TAUK shows under my belt, but one of the most exciting things about Tuesday’s show at Moe’s was the first listen at the new tracks from Sir Nebula. If you’re a fan of waving synth, clean bass grooves, an orchestra of drumming, and endlessly energetic guitar lines, it needs to be in your rotation.

The band got the night started around 10:15pm with “Home To Me,” the only cut from their 2013 debut Pull Factors. Starting off slow and brooding while the various nuances of the song build on each other, it wasn’t hard to imagine the song narrating a mountainside journey, growing in intensity as it continued.

Somewhere in the mix a speaker cable was disconnected and Jalbert’s guitar was only coming from his amp on stage, and they moved onto “Afro-Tonic” off of 2014’s Homunculus before the audio was corrected. TAUK took their time to warm up the chops, stretching each of these songs out and dipping into loose territory before they finally moved into a track from the new album.

TAUK at Moe's Alley, by Joshua Huver

A pair of new tracks, actually: “Time’s Up” and “Informant.” “Time’s Up” is one of my favorites off of Sir Nebula for the way it feels like something Tool, whilst experimenting with jazz, might come up with. Teel turned the ending dance beat on its head before bassist Charlie Dolan queued the drop and the keyboard wizardry of AC Carter elevated the jam into Kirby’s Dream Land.

TAUK likes to mix things up and keep set lists fresh for fans, and part of that includes a quiver full of songs that haven’t been recorded on an album yet. Tracks like “Weenus” and their stylistic rendition of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” were among the choice selections for Wednesday night. “Rainwalk” is the only other song they hit from Sir Nebula — they teased out the intro with a baby-making groove that grew in intensity before cascading over an ethereal edge.

The rest of the night was split between tracks from Homunculus and Collisions. Standout tracks from the second half of the show included jazzy jam “When In Doubt” and what felt like a new and lively line from Carter in “Mindshift.” TAUK closed the show with the single hard-rock rager of an encore with “Friction.”

Local Santa Cruz funk phenoms 7 Come 11 opened the evening, and the amount of stage space reserved for the trio looked marginally larger than their regular accommodations for their Tuesday night residency at The Crepe Place. They played a 45-minute set, but with multiple drum solos and keyboard acrobatics across the board, I was only able to discern four or five distinct song changes among the vast improvisation, setting the right tone for TAUK early.