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Taylor’s Universe - 2009 - "Artificial Joy"

(44:56, ‘Marvel of Beauty’)


*****-

Prolusion. TAYLOR’S UNIVERSE was founded by Danish composer and multi-instrumentalist Robin Taylor back in 1993, and has been the man’s main band-project ever since. Following a lengthy tenure by famed Danish sax player Karsten Vogel, 2009 marked the first year for a long time without his participation. "Artificial Joy" is the second album sans Vogel issued by Taylor's Universe, and was released in November 2009 on Robin's own label, Marvel of Beauty Records.

TRACK LIST:
           
1.  Work 4:41
2.  Artificial Joy 4:25
3.  Days Run Like Horses 7:02
4.  Atmosafear 7:04
5.  Laughter 7:01
6.  Telephone 4:59
7.  Fame 9:44

LINEUP:

Robin Taylor – keyboards; guitars; percussion
Michael Denner – guitars 
Finn Olafsson – guitars 
Jakob Mygind – saxophones 
Carsten Sindvald – clarinet, saxophones 
Flemming Muus Tranberg – bass 
Klaus Thrane – drums
With:
Louise Nipper – voice (4, 5)

Analysis. For anyone new to Taylor's Universe, I presume a description of his musical ventures might come in handy. And whenever you're dealing with any works where Robin Taylor has been involved, managing to convey just what the music sounds like is a rather daunting task in itself. The music is instrumental for starters. There's a voiceover on one of the compositions here – which works very well, I might add – but it's the instrumental passages that dominate this as all other efforts by this artist. Vintage keyboards are utilized throughout, as well as piano and organ, most often as richly layered backdrops to the soundscape, with one or more textures given a slightly more dominating role. In this case, as in most others, piano and organ are the ones usually pushed slightly more to the front of the mix, with wandering, repeated piano motifs and surging organ passages as the expressions of choice. All manners of tangents used are mixed and produced to come across as rich, warm and organic in sound, often with a brooding, slightly ominous undercurrent provided by either keyboards or some peculiar, yet highly intriguing and slightly subdued guitar riffs. On top of this musical landscape, themes are explored and soloing commences. In this case the sax and clarinet serve up the most intriguing of those aspects, while the guitars of Olafsson and Denner add some nifty excursions as well. The stylistic expressions venture back and forth between symphonic and fusion in most cases, often in quirky patterns and some subtle dissonant or disharmonic elements blended into otherwise strong, engaging melodies and themes. On this occasion Taylor incorporates some of his more experimental facets to some efforts, most noticeable on Days Run like Horses, opening with an ominous keyboards and reeds passage with almost nightmarish dimensions to it, evolving into a richly textured, hard-hitting symphonic number with noisescapes inserted halfway through and towards the end. A clear highlight on this production in my view, with the quirky opener Work and the multi-segmented, dark number Laughter, a composition not at all what one might expect from name alone, following close at hand. And while the multi-segmented creation Atmosfear didn't really intrigue me, the rest of this album is a high class effort through and through, with some efforts of sheer brilliance as described - in my personal opinion, obviously.

Conclusion. "Artificial Joy" is the tenth effort by Taylor's Universe, and yet again we're dealing with a high-quality production. While arguably not quite as intriguing as past efforts, such as "Soundwall", this is still a more than solid effort, and as always I'm impressed by Robin's ability to churn out one quality release after another. Highly recommended to any fans of his works, and a good place to start exploring the discography of Taylor's Universe for those not yet familiar with this act.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: March 24, 2010
The Rating Room


Taylor’s Universe - 2009 - "Artificial Joy"

******

Analysis. The twenty-eighth item in Robin Taylor’s general discography, “Artificial Joy” is the tenth outing by TAYLOR’S UNIVERSE. It would be safe to note that the album finds this Danish crew still keeping to the track/style their captain has worked out in the middle of the decade (when composing their ‘comeback’ release “Once Again”, to be more precise). On the other hand, it is more complicated than most of its predecessors from the period mentioned, and gladdens the ear throughout, offering plenty of engaging melodies and thematic diversity. The writing is generally very solid, as each of the seven tracks presented is additionally touched by what we comprehend as a musical magic. Only three of those, Work, Days Run Like Horses and Laughter, suggest a late ‘70s/early ‘80s symphonic art-rock sound (of the Manfred Mann’s Earth Band/ Alan Parsons Project/ Camel type, i.e. the one that also has a jazz quality to it), which characterizes the band’s 2000s work – at least much of it. Think basically slow-paced, yet dynamically evolving music with bright organ, piano and guitar leads, though on both the first two of these tracks there’s a fast-paced romp in the genre’s vintage manner, as well. Anyhow, the other compositions display more variety in arrangement and structure, alternating between quieter themes (which often involve an acoustic guitar) and driving moves with organ, bass, saxophones and – at times up to three – electric guitars at the fore. All the evenly-numbered tracks, the title one, Atmosfear and Telephone, combine typically sympho-prog devices with those belonging exclusively to Jazz-Fusion, from time to time fully eliminating the border between the styles/idioms. The band shines with inspiration and honesty on these, making it quite difficult for me to provide you, readers, with reference points. Only the brass players’ parts – when coupled up with non-standard chord progressions in particular – bring to mind some sense of Soft Machine circa “VI”. The closing track, Fame, is the most original and eclectic, though: a multi-sectional quasi-epic, more often evoking Rock-In-Opposition (yeah, at long last again) than Jazz-Fusion, albeit the approach to the first-named style is a bit more straightforward than the one typifying the band’s 1998 outing, “Experimental Health”, which I generally pick as their best effort. Following the proverb “Better late than never”, I think I should also mention that, save its core track Laughter (whose second move contains a theatric narration – still ‘courtesy’ of Louise Nipper), the hero of this occasion is a fully instrumental affair.

Conclusion. If Taylor's Free Universe’s creations (as well some of Robin’s solo stuff, too) are certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, the ones by Taylor's Universe should IMHO satisfy all true connoisseurs of Progressive: those who feel right at home anywhere within the scope of their beloved music, covering all the genres that are widely recognized as belonging to it. The remarkably consistent quality of Mr. Taylor's most recent compositions put their bearer, the “Artificial Joy” CD, on a level higher than most of the other contemporary jazz-rock and related releases. Besides, it’s complex enough to suppose that the band’s tendency to artificially simplify their music is finally over. Definitely recommended!

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: April 20, 2010
The Rating Room


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