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Taylor's Universe - 2006 - "Certain Undiscoveries"

(51 min, MALS)


******!
                 

TRACK LIST:

1.  Mandrake 5:06
2.  Little Vic 6:17
3.  Nilfish 4:06
4.  Majesty 0:42
5.  Majestaeten Ministeren og Frovarschefen 7:16
6.  Remember the Bill 6:40
7.  Ministry of Light 3:32
8.  Coming Soon 0:47
9.  Kelds Far 4:35
10. Variations On a Theme by DS 3:39
11. A Beautiful Garden With a Lot of Depressed Animals 8:51

LINEUP:

Robin Taylor - guitars; keyboards; percussion, glockenspiel
Karsten Vogel - saxophones, bass clarinet 
Rasmus Grosell - drums

Prolusion. "Certain Undiscoveries" is the sixth album by TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE from Denmark and is the 22nd release in Robin Taylor's general discography. Some notes concerning the artist's bio can be found in most of my previous reviews of his output, so I won't touch that topic this time around. Neophytes may check >this page, as it's exhaustively informative in this respect.

Analysis. On this their new recording, Taylor's Universe have strongly digressed from their trademark style. Taken overall, "Certain Undiscoveries" is nothing other than classic symphonic Art-Rock, the group having managed to keep most of the values that the genre is famed for, that very vintage full-of-magic sound included, but this is not everything. They have additionally put a genuinely new twist on the style, as they, thankfully, haven't forgotten some of their previous achievements - those in combining Jazz-Fusion and heavy Progressive (think "Experimental Health") in particular. Anyhow, while the music itself is highly innovative, the album's prevalent style is easily recognizable. Here are some relative references: Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson in the mid-'70s, classic instrumentals by The Alan Parsons Project, ELP / Keith Emerson's semi-improvisations on the themes of Classical music and Modest Mussorgsky's piano cycle "Pictures at an Exhibition". This time around Robin uses a really large arsenal of keyboards - Hammond organ, grand piano, string ensemble, harmonium, plus several different synthesizers, the former two instruments playing a leading role almost everywhere on the album. There are a lot of crunchy guitar riffs dancing in a ring with the swirling saxophone solos to be found on my favorite tracks, namely Mandrake, Remember the Bill and Kelds Far, these being generally performed with a much harder edge than the others. Nonetheless, there is a distinct symphonic quality to each. Ministry of Light begins and finishes with classically-inflected passages of grand piano, while overall, this is arguably the most eclectic composition in the set, with the organ, guitar and saxophone each taking turn in the swirling dance whose eccentricity suggests King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic". On the organ- and piano-laden Nilfish, the music swells with a symphonic richness throughout, the occasional accompaniment by guitar, saxophone and bass clarinet being just right. Majestaeten Ministeren og Forsvarschefen is the same story overall, but while the organ tone still has a sound resembling Van Der Graaf Generator, the tune's overall panorama evokes "Pictures at an Exhibition", Karsten Vogel remaining for the most part a kind of exterior observer this time around. On each of the said cuts, the music is sophisticated and is full of emotion and fire, with a complex structural approach which secures the intricate development of events with lots of twists, turns, odd meters and so on. The richest in organ interludes, Little Vic is nevertheless somewhat more laid back, in more of a pomp-rock groove in places, with Karsten's sax figuring prominently. It reminds me a bit of something that The Alan Parsons Project could have done with Mel Collins's participation. I don't really know why, but Variations on a Theme by DS (a piece with an ever-changing interplay between grand piano, organ and string ensemble at its core) also brings to mind Mussorgsky's most popular creation, while in fact this is Robin's dedication to another Great Russian composer, Dimitri Shostakovitch. Although the two very short pieces, Majesty and Coming Soon, both have a full-band sound, being surprisingly good already as they are, I think there was no especial necessity to place them on separate tracks, since both have much in common with the ones that follow them. Unfortunately the 9-minute concluding piece, A Beautiful Garden With a Lot of Depressed Animals, disappoints - despite its very promising title. With the exception of the episode (developing from organ-laden Sympho Prog to eclectic Space Metal) shortly before its 'finale', everything is overextended here - be it a sort of prelude based on the same repetitive organ riff or silent abstract sax trills accompanied by spacey effects, etc.

Conclusion. Sympho-prog lover? Accepting the genre in all the variety of its manifestations? Then welcome to the new Taylor's Universe! I guarantee you no less than 40 minutes of pure pleasure. I don't know whether this inappropriately titled recording (it's chock full of true discoveries actually) is the messenger of the band's future stylistic direction, but it might cardinally change your sense of Taylor's Universe. Top-20-2006

VM: January 15, 2007


Taylor's Universe - 2006 - "Certain Undiscoveries"

******!

Analysis. Musically, this release will make many reviewers tear their hair out in frustration, as describing what's offered here is anything but easily done. Most songs here are made with a certain jazz-grooviness present, but added to that mix are modern electronic noises, sax and clarinet soloing that vary from subtle melodic playing to free-form jazz sounding atonal deliveries. The drums vary from simple pacesetting to rhythmical experimentation, Hammond organ is used extensively in most songs, and electric guitars are added sometimes as effect and sometimes as the solid foundation for the song. And there are lots and lots of synths used as well here, to flesh out soundscapes as well as to underscore melody lines. The common denominator here is melody though - all songs here have relatively easy accessible melodic lines. Trying to place this release within the context of a known genre is hard, but I think that fusion would be the best overall description of the music on this release. As for the individual songs, there are plenty of goodies here. Describing the songs here isn't an easy thing to do though, instead I'll just recommend anyone not scared by the above description to check out the samples available at CD Baby; as they will give a much better feel for this music that whatever this poor reviewer can state in words. The one track on the album which is most off-putting for most will probably be the last track, which is more of a sound sculpture than a song, with what indeed is a noise sculpture as well as some free-jazz elements added here and there.

Conclusion. To put simply, this is a masterwork. Personal highlights: Nilfish, Majestaeten Ministeren og Forsvarschefen and Kelds Far. All these are brilliant pieces and are among my favorite tracks from 2006.

OMB: December 6, 2007


Related Links:

>Robin Taylor
MALS Records
Musea Records


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