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Art Cinema - 2008 - "Art Cinema"

(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


Art Cinema - 2008 - "Art Cinema"

******

Analysis. People familiar with Robin Taylor's artistic history will feel right at home when listening to this album. Especially in the last few years, Taylor has developed a particular mood and atmosphere on his releases that are both unique and accessible, without ever coming across as mainstream commercial in nature. Extensive use of saxophone for soloing, often of an improvisational nature, warm layers of keyboards and synths, frequent use of organ and dampened, distorted, drawn-out guitar chords are important elements in this particular musical identity, as is a warm, gentle production that is highly pleasant, but at the same time reveals all the small details in the sonic textures to the avid listener. And, in a fair world, this is the release that should be Robin Taylor's breakthrough as a commercial artist. The short, beautiful ballads, Climb My Ladder and Dreaming of Metamorphosis simply beg to be played on FM radio. The opening tune White Frozen, contrasting Lindberg's powerful and slightly cold vocals with the warmer and gentler output by the instruments used in a composition flowing from segment to segment, is the kind of song that you can play over and over again to enjoy the atmosphere as well as discovering yet another minute detail hidden in the soundscape. The other songs aren't as accessible or radio friendly, but remain highly fascinating all the same. The pattern for this album seems to be that of compositions with a more common approach in terms of structure, consisting of one or more easily accessible segments joined with one more challenging in nature, and both of them offering a plethora of minor details readily hearable for those who enjoy listening for them. The final track, Last Day of Summer, is a good example of this approach, starting out as a slow ballad with slight psychedelic leanings; then halfway through it there's a shift into an ambient-sounding low noise, and out of that noise a powerful outro start growing, with guitars, sax and organ sharing solo duties in a highly melodic and catchy groove-filled segment.

Conclusion. The addition of vocals and the decision to write less complexly structured songs on this album is a move that should be awarded with greater sales as well as attention. This hard-working Danish musician has produced a CD here which has strong commercial potential, and an album that deserves to obtain strong sales. Highly recommended to anyone fond of high class, melodic progressive rock music – this one is worth checking out, and many of you who do that will end up buying this release.

OMB: October 30, 2008


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