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(34:19, ‘Marvel of Beauty’)
Prolusion. Following Communion Musica’s “Special Alloy” from 2000, here is another item in Robin Taylor’s general discography that comes under a moniker which contains neither the first nor the last name of the artist. Just like Taylor’s Universe’s (TU hereinafter) latest outing, “Soundwall”, the self-titled Art Cinema CD is also considered to be a collaborative effort between Robin and Michael Denner – another famous Danish musician, the neophyte may using the preamble to this review as a starting point to get to know of his previous work.
TRACK LIST: 1. White Frozen 4:29 2. World of Shadows 5:31 3. Climb My Ladder 2:50 4. What Am I Doing Here? 6:33 5. Crimson Night 5:56 6. Dreaming of Metamorphosis 2:57 7. Last Day of Summer 6:03 LINEUP: Robin Taylor – keyboards; guitars Jytte Lindberg – primary lead vocals Louise Nipper – lead & backing vocals Michael Denner (of King Diamond / Mercyful Fate fame) – guitars Bjarne Holm (of King Diamond / Mercyful Fate fame) – drums Carsten Sindvald – saxophones Flemming Muus Tranberg – bass Jon Hemmersam – guitars Pierre Tassone – violin
Analysis. The influence of what nowadays is seen as the most popular branch of late ‘70s as well as ‘80s mainstream Progressive and which has been part of Taylor’s Universe’s work beginning with their sixth album, “Certain Undiscoveries”, would probably be already the name of the game here, on “Art Cinema”, although structurally (think its basic, instrumental, architectures) most of this album draws easy comparisons with “Soundwall”. Traditionally, Robin, Michael and their partners deploy, for the most part, their personal approach, from time to time still paying their virtual tribute to The Alan Parsons Project (TAPP from now on), so quite a lot of the same trademark features can be found here: the ample organ and mellotron washes – almost everywhere, the virtuosi (non-heavy, yet still often ‘metal-spitting’) guitar solos – on those five of the disc’s seven tracks that form its prevailing style. All having a full-band sound, at least for the most part, these are White Frozen, World of Shadows, What Am I Doing Here, Last Day of Summer and Crimson Night, each indicating that Denner continues to succeed in adopting his specific guitar playing to, well, life outside the 'Coven’, and although the first three songs are quite heavy in places, their corresponding sections belong to either symphonic or jazz-influenced Doom Metal, in terms of structure evoking a cross between early Moonspell and those creations by TAPP that feature Mel Collins on saxophone. Unlike Collins’, however, Carsten Sindvald’s saxophone trills most often bear a pronounced improvisational character and are even more variegated than Karsten Vogel’s on some of the latest releases by TU. Furthermore, while he never played with Robin before, Sindvald appears to be the most Universal (derived from the name of Taylor’s main band) voice in this act. It is also in many ways thanks to his, kind of frenetic, approach that Crimson Night comes across as something not of this world, er, work, and is in turn the most Universal composition in the set, even though almost half of it consists of atmospheric keyboard drones. Last Day of Summer would be another standout, as it doesn’t reveal any distinct metalloids, being the sole track on the recording that includes up-tempo arrangements, with all the instruments involved, namely organ, guitar, sax, bass and drums, playing fast (which, however, doesn’t automatically mean that their bearer is the most advanced track here). As both the described ones do, the other three primary-style pieces, White Frozen, World of Shadows and What Am I Doing Here, begin with gentle acoustic, either piano or saxophone, passages hovering over the Mellotron and the (soft-sounding) rhythm section, but otherwise all turn out to be filled with a fairly mysterious, gothic-like, aura, regardless of whether the musical landscapes are hard and dense or atmospherically-transparent at the moment. The implied darkness, however, is most of the time compensated by lighter, occasionally almost romantic, vocal intonations, so the overall picture is distinctly contrasting and generally intriguing, not without a sense of magic. Yes, the novelty to Robin’s work is real, lyrics-based, singing, and there are a lot of lead as well as harmony vocals on this album – perhaps the best female vocals I have heard this century, at least considering the originality of Louise Nipper and (especially) Jytte Lindberg’s delivery. Featuring only Mellotron, piano and singing, plus saxophone and acoustic guitar, respectively, Dreaming of Metamorphosis and Climb My Ladder are both relatively complex, but, what’s most appealing, highly original ballads, particularly the former which to a greater degree comes across as a jazz-fusion than as a symphonic piece. This one is really wonderful in its own way, but nonetheless the five songs described first are more to my taste, particularly White Frozen and What Am I Doing Here, the heaviest and at the same time the most diverse and contrasting compositions in the set.
Conclusion. It may seem that Robin, Michael and company have thrown their hats in the ring of demands of the time with “Art Cinema”. Even if so, they have created an excellent recording which just shows another facet of their talent. A rare case when a relatively simple progressive music is so highly appealing, this album is filled with strong melodies and clever arrangements and would have certainly found its haven at a major label had it been released back in the ‘80s, though I’m almost sure that Inside Out or even SPV Records would have taken Art Cinema on board if the band had tried with them before releasing the disc on their own.
VM: October 30, 2008