Marvel Of Beauty Records [Release date 17.11.17]
If it’s hard to retain a serious notion of progressive rock in a genre that arguably ran its short lived course in the early 70’s, then Robin C. Taylor takes the instrumental jazz-rock option to tap into the vibrant North European niche dating way back to the early 70’s.
His 25 year old band and prodigious 30 plus album career continues to vibrantly explore a durable strand of contemporary music with an excellent album that cuts a swathe through musical labels.
Perhaps the name of his band Taylor’s Universe is an oblique nod to some exploratory music of the highest order, routed in broad conceptual landscapes with barely a wasted note.
The free-flowing arrangements encourage some breathtaking interplay and subtle dynamics. The deep solos lie at the core of a number of expansive ambient soundscapes which are a musician’s equivalent of a painter’s canvas.
Taylor Universe is a creative and evolving force which strikes a perfect balance between the band’s inherent musical ability and their leader’s overall vision.
Perhaps it’s the stop-start nature of his career – including a mid-80’s diversion into visual arts – that has enabled him to retain a freshness of purpose.
The Anglo/Danish composer is a self styled multi-instrumentalist, sound manipulator, arranger, producer and record label owner who has long dabbled in the early notions of multi-tracking. No surprise then to discover that his music is full of layered melodies and little tension building pulses that are exquisitely resolved by expansive solos leading to deep grooves.
‘Almost Perfected’ is an aptly titled album that makes light of Robert Fripp’s claim of music recycling itself. Sure there are broad familiar threads and embellishments, but there’s a refreshing approach born of a conceptual continuity that enables Taylor to fuse prog rock, psychedelia, ambient music and yes damn it, jazz.
It’s old school music unashamedly built on European jazz rock antecedents, with nods to Neil Ardley, Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe, Gong (both Moerlen and Hillage led combos) and even Pink Floyd.
The album opens with the ambivalently titled ‘Mean Attack’, which moves from a meditative opening to sudden kaleidoscopic bursts, before settling into eastern sounding groove as the piece moves into fusion mode to evoke Pierre Moerlen’s Gong. There’s also a Tull meets Gentle Giant stop-start staccato break, leading into a feather light sax note fade.
The 2-part ‘Definitely Greek (She said)’ is outstanding, as it restlessly shifts its gaze from jazz-rock to gently voiced chords and some grainy toned sax and Thomas TV Ulstrupand’s moog stabs. A pregnant pause ushers in some exhilarating moog and acoustic guitar interplay over gently nuanced bv’s.
The pristine sonic quality, careful note choice and sudden explosive quiet-to-loud finish makes the outro sound almost impatient.
There’s also a nod to the mid-70 on the synth intro of ‘Remembering Johannesburg’, before a clever organ and vocal collage with guitar noodles.
A significant pause leads to a more laid back feel with gently applied soprano, on a great example of Taylor’s layered textural approach that helps shape an extended piece that goes on a shade too long.
And so to the closing album highlight ‘Dark Side of Alec’. It’s a beautifully woven piece with a thunderous King Crimson style intro and some portentous organ and delicate cymbal work, punctuated by muscular drum parts on an otherwise deftly layered piece of early 70’s Floydian psychedelia.
This is the most complete piece music on the album, as the band soars eloquently with a melange of John Sund’s guitar, Jakob Mygind on sax and Robin on keyboards over a powerful rhythm section.
The joyous collision of psychedelic and jazz-rock eventually heads to a windswept landscape fade that ensures the music lingers on in the mind long after the last note.
Creatively layered, inspirationally played, beautifully crafted and with focussed solos framed by mellifluous band interplay, this is a superb album that all self respecting rock into fusion fans should seek out and buy. *****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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