Last week saw the surprise release of a proper debut from West Coast collective Taper’s Choice. The band, long a live favorite, and unabashed adopters of the jam band moniker, have been teasing out most of the works on here in a series of four tapes that were culled from performances over the past couple of years. Those merch table staples act as the blueprint for History of Taper’s Choice, Vol. 1. Though they’re definitely made and molded by the stage, its interesting to hear the band enter the studio with an inclination to translate their prog-slathered vision into an album that embraces the interconnected nature of their sets. The whole record plays like a waking dream, wandering from track to track without letting the thread go slack.
Featuring a cross-section of high profile names from familiar bands — Alex Bleeker (Real Estate), Chris Thompson (Vampire Weekend), Dave Harrington (DARKSIDE), and Zach Tenorio-Miller (Arc Iris) — the band’s credentials would have read like an indie supergroup, but they eschew their past to follow a different path. With a heavy debt to Tenorio-Miller’s keys, the band embraces the grandeur of ‘70s prog as it began to slip into ‘90s jam. With the supple grace of Traffic, the band melds notions of jazz into tightly wound grooves. It’s clear the band spent as much time between the Roger Dean-draped dreams of Yes as they did delving into the Santa Monica sets and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, then on “You Can’t Make A Rainbow” the band goes full Tarkus, letting the smoke plumes mix with the sci-fi clouds.
Quite a lot of the band’s most beloved works rear their head here — the shadowy “Darkness on the Edge of Midtown, alongside the exploratory trio of “Hieronymous Bong,” “Lick The Toad,” and “Running From The Rain.” One of my favorites from the tapes, “21 Miles” gets an official nod as well, as close as they get to letting their indie cred slip into the mix. The most notable exception in the bunch is the band’s live constant, “Doner Wrap,” which gets a one second fake-out at the beginning. Perhaps that’s something left for Vol. 2, a song they couldn’t bear to truncate as is the case with the others. It’s impressive to see the band compact their often sprawling works into something that, while far from a pop record, pays mind to giving the listener a taste before unraveling these works on stage.
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