X Position Vol. 1 is a collection of rarities and leftovers from previous Robin Taylor albums, be they solo or with Taylor's Free Universe. The songs here date back to the early 90's up until as recently as this year, all applying the free-jazz meets avant-prog stylings of guitarist/keyboard player Taylor and his cast of expert musicians. So while X Position Vol. 1 has some moments of unfocused meandering, there are still plenty of engaging improvisational jaunts here to make this a perfect companion to your collection of Robin Taylor, Taylor's Universe, or Taylor's Free Universe CD's.
The opening cut "Black Country Ruffle", was originally slated for the Samplicity album from 2001, but was left off. It is included here in all its fiery, unadulterated fury, with Karsten Vogel's screaming sax battling with Taylor's frenzied, distorted guitar shards. "Hi Life (For Maria)" is a piece from 1998 that is a complete opposite to its predesessor. Here, Taylor's lush acoustic guitar work and Vogel's melodic sax will remind you of classic Oregon and the interplay between Ralph Towner and Paul McCandless. Raging synthesized space rock meets the manic drum work of Mads Hansen on the brief "Don't Drink & Drive (While On Duty)" from 1991, which then segues into the equally futuristic & electronic "Baroque Ideas."
The CD closes out with three long pieces, to mixed results. "Ether Spirit" is dissonant free-jazz, featuring static violin passages from Pierre Tassons and all sorts of keyboard and percussive noodling from Taylor. Quite simply, I'm not sure it works, although they do manage to create some sort of brooding menace , much like Univers Zero, but in the end it becomes 8-minutes of monotony. The same can be said for "City Life and Blah Blah Blah", another 8-minute track with tortured wailings from Vogel's sax and way too much non-melodic percussive banging. The saving grace here is Taylor's searing guitar passages & loops, which create a very haunting atmosphere. The last cut is the longest on the CD at just over 12-minutes, "Lass Mich Los", recorded live at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in 2003. This is an extended piece of exciting free-jazz, with Vogel's screaming sax soaring through the heaven's while Taylor's guitar loops, Tassone's violin, & Johan Segerberg's melodic bass lines keep everything somewhat grounded. That is, until Kalle Mathiesen comes crashing in with a wild drum solo!
Robin Taylor once again has put together a collection of tunes that might be pretty hard for some listeners to describe or even enjoy, but for the avant crowd out there this will be juicy stuff. Not a perfect set by any means, as it is obvious that a few cuts here were left off previous albums for a reason, but some good stuff here as always from this creative musician.
1) Black Country Ruffle (7:58)
2) Hi Life! (For Maria) (5:05)
3) Don't Drink & Drive (While On Duty) (1:52)
4) Baroque Ideas (3:53)
5) Bill Knudsen (1:50)
6) Ether Spirit (8:24)
7) City Life and Blah Blah Blah (8:23)
8) Lass Mich Los (12:21)