Taarka will perform at the Walnut Room downtown.
From left: David Pelta-Tiller, Mike Robinson, Troy Robey, and Enion Pelta-Tiller. Photograph courtesy of Anne Staveley
If the apocalypse comes, David Pelta-Tiller is unsure of what music he would take with him as he tries to live out the end of the world. “It’s tough,” he says. “It depends on what mood I’m in.” Apparently not even the end of days could force David to make a rushed decision when it comes to music.
David and his wife Enion are the foundation of Taarka, a band whose influences include American folk, eastern European folk, traditional bluegrass, Celtic, Klezmer, Roma, pop, jazz, and even Motown. The string band, based about an hour north of Denver in Lyons, is remarkable in that it can weave all those influences together into a cohesive, meaningful composition.
The result is something that’s shockingly easy—and enjoyable—to experience.
Although Taarka is set up more or less like a traditional bluegrass band—it features the mandolin, a violin (that sounds more like a fiddle at times), a string bass, and a guitar—it somehow manages to showcase a plethora of global influences in a way that can appeal to more than just music geeks. What's remarkable is how David, Enion, and their two bandmantes take these various genres and use them to highlight their own musical abilities. Fading Mystery, Taarka’s latest album, will be available to the public on March 10, and accompanying its release will be a live show in Denver on Friday night.
The album is a quick 45 minutes, and among the 10 tracks that channel a wide varietly of influences, “Retreat” stands out. A purely instrumental song on the second half of the album, "Retreat" is the clearest exposition of each player’s abilities. Enion opens it up on her violin and establishes the melody. In traditional bluegrass fashion, that melody is repeated late in the song, with each artist improvising his or her own take. But in those solos, the the flavors Klezmer, Roma, and jazz all shine through. In just under four minutes, listeners go on a journey around the world.
The one challenge that comes with listening to a Taarka album is knowing where exactly each new sound derives from. Unless world music and music history are the listener’s passion, it can be difficult to place the sounds Taarka showcases. It’s part of the reason this band has, as David puts it, “successfully avoided being successfully pigeonholed.”
“We’re being musically honest to ourselves by using what music we like as opposed to trying to conform to somebody’s expectations,” David says. “We are pursuing our heart of what we love about music and putting it together.”
But that shouldn’t be taken as a knock on Taarka. Rather, it’s reason for excitement. Taarka's rare ability to take influences that rarely coexist together and create something new is rare, and worth the listen. David and Enion have been training on the instruments they still play since they were 5 and 3 years old, respectively. That passion shows in their musicianship on Fading Mystery, a work on which the husband-and-wife duo show they’re constantly growing as artists—no small feat after 16 years of playing together.
By the time David and Enion finally agreed on their apocalypse playlist, it spanned multiple genres and included Stevie Wonder, Kronos Quartet, Radiohead, Django Reinhardt, Robert Johnson, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, and Galician Celtic music. The music on this list is angry, bluesy, happy, jazzy, soulful, apocalyptic, and soothing. Such is a fitting embodiment of Taarka’s inspiration.
If you go: The show begins at 8 p.m. at the Walnut Room. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. 3131 Walnut St. Call 303-292-1700 or get tickets online.