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Taylor's Universe (Denmark) - 2004 - "Once Again"
TRACK LIST: 1. Groop 4:53 2. Oyster Jungle 4:19 3. Bellahoy 2:44 4. Conference at the Bird Mountain 9:45 5. Way Back in 1985 5:58 6. Suspect Terrain 4:27 7. Lazy B 8:43 All tracks: by Taylor, except 2: Vogel. LINE-UP: Robin Taylor - electric guitar & bass; keyboards; electronics; percussion Karsten Vogel - all saxophones & bass clarinet Pierre Tassone - violins Mads Hansen - drums With: Louise Nipper - vocalize Kim Menzer - didgeridoo Rasmus Grossell - drums Kalle Mathiesen - drums Produced & mixed by Taylor (May 2004). Engineered by Nipper (October - December 2003). Recorded at Soundscape Studio (Copenhagen).
Prolusion. In most cases I write such introductory lines prior to listening to what I have to describe, while now, I am doing this already well-acquainted with the material. I could not keep myself from playing "Once Again" right after I got it, as this is the first TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE album since 1998's "Experimental Health". Well, several other albums with Robin's direct participation were released during the last six years, but the three creative paths the man goes all lead to different musical dimensions. I feel very fortunate being familiar with all of Robin's solo works, as well as those by Taylor's Universe and Taylor's Free Universe (15 altogether to date). All of them are reviewed, and the reviews are >here, >here, >here and >here.
Synopsis. The fact that our hero's creation still remains inaccessible to the general progressive audience can be explained by many factors. The most significant of them lie, in my view, in the complexity of Robin's music and in the huge, sometimes striking, difference between symphonic and improvisational harmonies. There are relatively few people even among the really open-minded and profound Prog-lovers who would equally comprehend and love both of the harmonies, and the loser are usually the latter, which, though, are much more widespread than the former only in the works of Taylor's Free Universe. On the other hand, the complexity of Robin's music in general often makes it difficult to understand whether it is composed or improvised, which can also be disturbing for the listener. But here is finally an album, which might radically change the situation. On "Once Again" Taylor's Universe presents a perfect balance between complexity and melody. Free of any, say, improvisational licenses, the album won't be a closed book for you if only you aren't exclusively into Neo. What is more, most compositions are filled with magic (in the truest sense of the phenomena, I swear!), so the album will charm you and will absorb all your attention already upon the first spin. On any of the first five tracks: Groop, Oyster Jungle, Bellahoy, Conference at the Bird Mountain, and Way Back in 1985, the music is alternatively soft and aggressive, yet, consistently mesmerizing, retaining a subtle intensity throughout. This is still Fifth Element, which, however, is now based on a synthesis of Symphonic Art-Rock and either obscure (on 1 & 3) or manifest (on 2, 4, & 5) Cathedral Metal with elements of Jazz-Fusion, but without traditional jazz features. The variations of mood and energy within each of these compositions make for a constantly compelling listen. The outfit's core members, Robin and Karsten, are usually at the helm, creating a collage of loose, slippery leads, which intertwine with dynamic background textures, all being completely structured and excellently executed. The fat, quite heavy and intensive riffs of guitar or bass along with the parts of drums form the framework that solos of guitar, saxophones, synthesizer, piano, and mallet percussion weave their intricate, yet, always integral and beautiful web around. In other words, although the fixed basic arrangements make the compositions sound rhythmically pronounced, all the soloing lines are different, and there are many changes of theme and tempo in addition, all of which keeps the music both progressively interesting and immediately enthralling. Suspect Terrain is a bit jazzier in nature, but is still full of fresh ideas, clearly distinguishing it from the works of classic Jazz-Fusion. The last composition Lazy B is the only track here, which doesn't possess anything definitely new, but it is excellent in its own way. This is a slow, somewhat lazy, but tasty and impressive guitar Blues Rock enriched by lush passages of string ensemble and refined solos of saxophone.
Conclusion. I am not that satisfied with this review, as I feel I could not find enough proper words to express my thoughts on the album in the way that it is really worthy of. To be frank, it is much easier to write critical notes than to describe a thing that is perfect. Nevertheless, if my opinion on the band's previous recordings didn't always coincide with yours dear readers, try "Once Again", and there won't be variances between us this time. The album not only shows that a word like stagnation, not to mention decadence, isn't applicable to the creation of this unique musical communion from Denmark. A real thing of beauty, this is the finest, most coherent and impressive album in Robin's general discography, which will be a revelation for anyone having an idea of what Progressive Rock at its best should be about. (>Top-20)
VM: August 18, 2004
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