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(55 min, 'Marvel of Beauty')
TRACK LIST: 1. Strategy 2:26 2. M'Fisto Rubberphunk 15:09 3. Angel Stairs 3:37 4-12. Nine Nice & Easy Pieces 9:56 13. Like a Nervous Car Wreck 4:05 14. The Elephant Cure 7:19 15. Z Return 13:04 All tracks: by Taylor's Free Universe. Produced by Robin Taylor. LINEUP: Robin Taylor - guitar; tapes Kim Menzer - clarinet, trombone Pierre Tassone - processed violin; percussion Peter Friis Nielsen - bass Lars Juul - drums
Prolusion. The fourth album by Denmark's TAYLOR'S FREE UNIVERSE (TFU hereinafter), "Family Shot", presents the lineup, which Robin Taylor calls "alternative", although there are only two musicians who never were members of TFU before. These are drummer Lars Juul and wind instrumentalist Kim Menzer, the latter played on "Experimental Health" by Taylor's Universe (TU hereafter). Like Karsten Vogel, whom he replaces here, Kim is also of Burnin' Red Ivanhoe fame.
Analysis. As is typical for TFU, the music on "Family Shot" is entirely improvised and doesn't contain any overdubs. However, this album greatly differs from the band's previous output. Following TU ("Once Again"), TFU takes the step towards the larger audience, which is justified, taking into consideration that their music is at times excessively complicated. Here, the basic arrangements are slow nearly throughout, and only once, on the ninth track, the band goes fast, jamming highly intensive. Overall, this is another excellent album in the series, though there are some things that I would like to be done differently. The album is provided with short intro and outro, both being plain and ambient, but while the latter comes as the ending of the last track, which I like better, the former takes the separate position (Strategy) and, hence, looks to some degree like a foreign body, because all the further contents are of another story nearly altogether. The avant-garde Jazz Rock improvisations, that are located on tracks 4-13 and have the common title Nine Nice & Easy Pieces, are subjected to the same compositional conception, are good, completed, and yet, they sound like sketches (especially upon the first spin), above all due to the pauses between them. The band had to unite the pieces into one monolithic track; then the result would've been much more convincing. The other tracks are remarkable works, and the 15-minute M'Fisto Rubberphunk is just monumental. This is the world of structured Space Fusion, atmospheric, mysterious and magical at once. The musicians all bring something different to have a really thick stratum of sounds. Although rather short, Angel Stairs is also an excellent composition, following in a similar direction. A tendency to more dissonant and unusual melodies brings about the development on the remaining tracks: Like a Nervous Car Wreck, The Elephant Cure and Z Return. On each of them, save the ending of Z Return, the band slides somewhere between structured and avant-garde Space Fusion. The instrumentation combines a rich balance of electric (guitar, bass, tapes) and acoustic (violin, clarinet, trombone, drums) sounds spread over the sonic palette in the way that each player has his own space to maneuver within and still interact with the others. Excellent stuff too.
Conclusion. While many improvisational albums of this type tend to be failures, those by TFU and some others succeed better, at least from a creative standpoint. Which is probably because these men have a huge experience in making impromptu music, recording every time they rehearse or perform. This is TFU's most accessible effort to date, though it's still more intricate than any of those by Robin Taylor solo or TU. Those liking "No Commercial Potential" and the like albums by Djam Karet might be much pleased with "Family Shot" as well.
VM: April 1, 2005
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