Taco Hat begins with a disorienting opening salvo: a rapid and atonal electric guitar line, scrambling around frantically in no particular direction. It is also obviously a synthesized guitar sound, representing the composer’s view of our postmodern “synthetic” society. He seems to be suggesting that everything in the external world is fundamentally artificial. He also seems to be suggesting that he never learned how to play the guitar.
This opening guitar pattern is soon joined by an equally disjointed bass line and electronic percussion. The bass line appears to follow the guitar line, showing how pervasive imitation has become in today’s age. Is anyone really unique anymore, in the traditional sense? Are we not all products of our peers? These are questions the composer wants us to ask ourselves. Are we the guitar line or the bass line? And who is imitating who, exactly? Also, the drums represent robots.
The next element to enter is a barrage of confounding synth tones. It becomes clear at this point that we have stumbled into an anarchist carnival, circa 2043. There is something that sounds like Clara Rockmore on crystal meth. There are sine tone bleeps and clicky sounds. There is still no definitive tonality. The listener is adrift in a sea of disorganized textural flotsam (and a slight bit of jetsam). There appears to be little hope at this point, both for the listener and for society in general.
Suddenly, forty seconds into the piece, everything drops out except the drums, the bass, and an eerie piano reverb trail. The sinking bass line is a clear nod to the sinking of the Titanic, which occurred in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912. This date can also be written as 4/15/12. Notice how the digits add up: 4 + 15 + 12 = 31. This is the number of flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream. Here we can see the stunning mathematical complexity of Taco Hat. Through his careful use of sound sculpting, the composer is able to encode detailed messages. Here, the message seems to be: “Icebergs are bad. Ice cream is good.” It now becomes clear to the listener that ice can be used for both good AND evil. This is one of the central themes of Taco Hat.
After this transition, the sound of a horn arpeggio emerges. A horn is an instrument. There are many instruments in Taco Hat.
We soon hear the reoccurrence of elements from the beginning of the piece: namely, the guitar line and the sine tone bleeps. However, they are recontextualized here, used sparingly to fill space rather than overwhelm. This use of subtle coloration underscores the composer’s debt to Beethoven, Wagner, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the National Bank of Canada.
The subsequent introduction of fragmented piano leads us into the emotional core of the piece. There is a subtle but jarring disconnect between each note, highlighting the profound disconnect that each one of us feels on a daily basis. “Yes, this piano line is fragmented,” the composer screams at us, “but can’t the same be said of humanity?” At this point, everyone should be sobbing.
We now reach the last phase of the piece, as everything drops out except the fragmented piano line. Soon, it is joined by an equally fragmented vibraphone. This has something to do with Kierkegaard, maybe. Drums re-enter along with an obviously inebriated bass line, indicating that this song really needs to end soon. Suddenly, without warning, a blanket of ambient synth descends from the heavens, signaling the return of the Messiah. Before long, everything drops out except the synths and the drums, because Jesus hates anarchist carnivals. With the salvation of Earth complete, the synths fade away into the distance, leaving nothing but pure cosmic enlightenment in their wake.