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(42:22 / MALS Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Terra Nova 5:48 2. Amhage West 5:21 3. Meccane 3:44 4. They Usually Come at Night 6:48 5. Metropolarization 4:34 6. Land of Lamps 7:26 7. Ruby Wires 4:02 8. City of Greed 6:42 LINEUP: Robin Taylor - guitars; keyboards; percussion; flute Karsten Vogel - saxophones, bass clarinet Rasmus Grossel - drums With: Hugh Steinmetz - trumpet (4) Louise Napper - voice (1, 2, 5) Jytte Lindberg - voice (1, 8)
Prolusion. Robin Taylor, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from Denmark, is unquestionably one of the most fruitful artists in the history of Progressive Rock. Judge for yourselves: "Terra Nova" is the twenty-third release in his general discography, not one of the outings being a compilation. As Taylor's Free Universe has called it a day, Robin seems to have now all his efforts switched over to TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE, the most 'symphonic' of his three projects. Looking for more info? Click >here.
Analysis. Continuing to develop the style they pioneered on their previous album "Certain Undiscoveries", on "Terra Nova" Taylor's Universe make their closest approach to perfection as regards a symphonic sound. Driven by keyboards (organ, piano, grand piano and synthesizers - listed in line of descent according to their appearance in the arrangement), with excellent support from both guitar and winds as well as precise drumming, most of the tracks here find the group playing music whose relationship with late-'70s Art-Rock and related styles is simply striking. It doesn't seem to be accidental at all that Robin continues to increase the weight of keyboards in the project's overall sound, and his growth as a symphonic composer is evident throughout the CD. Some of the eight pieces here are gloomy in mood, but most are so to speak emotionally labile (which has been always one of the hallmarks of progressive music), and all without exception are very imaginative, with magic residing nearly everywhere. Upon an initial listening the first two tracks, Terra Nova and Amhage West, both may seem to be more conventionally melodic than any of the subsequent ones, and yet there is a genuine depth in their arrangements whose multi-layered constructions manifest the approach used in classic Minimalist music. The sound is highly original, lying far aside any standards; only when the saxophone goes into action does it resemble The Alan Parsons Project, though there are no sequenced solos here (or anywhere on the disc either), but there are heavy guitar riffs in places, accentuating the power of the music, as well as some charming female vocalizations. Meccane and Ruby Wires are both sonically similar to the above two tracks, but are noticeably more eclectic. Karsten ventures on some genuine improvisations, occasionally providing counterpoint solos, none of which however conflicts with the pieces' fundamental symphonic nature, but surprisingly accentuates it instead, by contrast. Alternating beautiful, melodically pronounced themes with darker and at once much more sophisticated passages, Metropolarization is additionally notable for its delicate interludes featuring only piano, organ and string ensemble. While seemingly ranging from Jazz-Fusion to Sympho Prog to Psychedelia, Land of Lamps and City of Greed both overall represent a new word in progressive music. A combination of highly eclectic jam-like interactions between numerous instruments (most being overdubbed for sure) and a groovy, hypnotic bottom line, each disposes me towards a contemplation each time I play them. What makes the pieces sound like they belong predominantly to the former genre is their profusion in brass leads, and also (in the case of the closing number) some jazzy female vocalizations. As I suppose however, the biggest surprise awaits the listener on the fourth track, They Usually Come at Night, which will be a threat for anybody with interest in progressive Doom Metal. The composition begins in the uncomfortably slow-paced fashion, associating itself exclusively with a requiem. Later on the pressure steadily builds up, and soon the composition plunges the listener into an atmosphere of drama, a heavy disturbing theme somewhat reminiscent of Tiamat's "Wildhoney", but with a better keyboardist, plus two brass players whose wild improvisations seem to appear straight from the eye of that storm.
Conclusion. Though I'd been happier if the music on "Terra Nova" had been more complicated, I must admit this is a creation of genius. I am amazed with Taylor's ability to achieve true creative success in whatever direction he takes as a songwriter. Anyway I would highly recommend him to focus on heavy music in the future, so as to finally get an appropriate response from a wide circle of progressive rock fans.
VM: October 24, 2007