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Taylor's Universe: From Scratch

Here we are in early 2015, and we have another release from the always busy Robin Taylor, and this outing is under the Taylor's Universe banner and titled From Scratch. Along with Taylor, who handles bass, keyboards, guitars, and percussion, the album features constant collaborator Karsten Vogel (sax, clarinet), Claus Bohling (guitars), Thomas Thor Videro Ulstrup (minimoog), Klaus Thrane (drums), Finn Olafsen (guitars), Jakob Mygind (sax), Carsten Sindvald (sax), and vocalists Jytte Lindberg, Louise Nipper, and Jan Fischer. From Scratch features seven tracks of progressive rock, jazz fusion, and avant-garde styles.

Kicking off with "Other Meetings", the band settles into a fiery, melodic fusion groove, complete with tasty keyboards, addicting rhythms, and a scorching wah-wah soaked guitar solo courtesy of Bohling. "Beta X" is more of an oddball, a strange mix of free jazz, electronica, and avant-garde, with Taylor's eerie vocoder effects and Vogel's squealing sax standing out at the forefront. On "Balcony People", the tone becomes much more somber and menacing, as thick Ebow guitar & minimoog drive the melody over some muscular grooves and soaring clarinet, leaving just enough room for some blazing guitar & minimoog solos for a wild fusion ride. The 9+ minute "Interrail" is another dark piece, but interjected with some addicting "La la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la la" vocals from Lindberg & Fischer that add a catchy pop sheen to this otherwise pulsating, groove laden avant-garde tune. "Laura's Lullaby" is a charming slice of pop jazz featuring Vogel's melodic soprano sax, while the varied "Fur Louise" starts off with minimalist sounds before bursting into a mash up of rock, jazz, and prog loaded with Olafsson's tasty guitar solos, Ulstrup's minimoog, and plenty of reeds. From Scratch closes with the haunting "Autumn River", featuring nothing more than Bohling's yearning electric guitar and EBowed guitar loops and keys from Taylor.

You'd think that with the plethora of releases from the Robin Taylor camp over the last 20 years that the leader might perhaps be running out of musical ideas, but thankfully that is indeed not the case. From Scratch is another in a fine set of mostly instrumental albums from this outfit for anyone into prog, jazz, and avant-garde.


Track Listing
1) Other Meetings
2) Beta X
3) Balcony People
4) Interrail
5) Laura's Lullaby
6) Fur Louise
7) Autumn River

Added: May 30th 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1887
Language: english

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Taylor's Universe: From Scratch
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-05-30 10:16:42
My Score:

It's amazing that some artists can take years to create their "masterpieces" when progressive jazz fusioning avant-garder Robin C. Taylor seems to come up with an excellent new set of songs at will. Latest addition to the lengthy canon is From Scratch, an enigmatically diverse collection under the Taylor's Universe banner, where an electronic vibe is used to alter the heavy heart which always seems to be beating beneath the surface. It's a clever tool, the off-kilter beat and mean moodiness of "Beta X" avoiding maudlin through Taylor's unexpected vocoder effects alongside minimoog from Thomas Ulstrup and sumptuous voice from Louise Nipper. Although the beautiful, plaintive soprano sax from Kartsen Vogel leaves no doubt that this is not a happy tale. As if that wasn't enough, a break down of bleeps and bloops, offset by stabs of sax turns everything on its head and announces that all approaches are fair game and even the uneasy atmospheres aren't untouchable from further avant-garde. Elsewhere "Balcony People" whispers into being, the sense of uncomfortable eavesdropping suddenly given a steady beat and strangely languid sense of purpose. Claus Bøhling shows up to rip out a searing electric guitar solo and Ulstrup matches him with an eerie minimoog statement; a jazzier Belew era Crimson suggested, before whisked away again to be replaced with more unsettling voices and whispers.

On the other end of the scale, "Laura's Lullaby" is a short, uplifting piece where sax and piano never quite soothe but captivate nonetheless as Nipper and Jytte Lindberg add calming voices. While "Für Louise" builds from minimalism into a pulsating slap of soprano sax (this time from Jakob Mygind), baritone sax (Carsten Sindvald), bass clarinet (Vogel once more) and striking guitar from Finn Olafsson. However once again it's the minimoog which offers the sharpest stabs of colour, as Taylor himself throbs, clatters and chimes along on bass, percussion and keys. "Autumn River" closes proceedings in pensive mood, Bøhling and Taylor sparking gently off each other through electric guitar, Ebowed guitar loops and restrained keys, while "Other Meetings" opens the album in upbeat, kick drum dancing dominance, a regal outburst swathed in jazzed up Vangelis like atmospheres – it shouldn't work, but really does. Leaving "Interrail" to shift through the gears in the most effective of manners, as avant-garde clatters of drums and shifty keyboards give way to the sounds of the train engaging full throttle. Unlike rock bands, who use mighty riffs to signify the power of a locomotive thundering down the tracks, here drummer Klaus Thrane (who's immense throughout this album) combines with Vogel's alto sax, Taylor's keys and Ulstrup's minimoog to illustrate the rhythmic dynamism of a train as it surges through the night, that unmistakable punctuation given a huge boost by superb vocal sounds from Lindberg and Jan Fischer; their contribution seductive beyond belief. Daringly, the irresistible effect is then broken down into painful expulsions which seemingly signify the straining arrival at a station, as life clambers on board – and then we're off again, the vocal "na-na-na-na-na's" digging deep into your mind as we go. No words are sung during all of this, but you'll be singing along nonetheless.

As with most of Robin Taylor's output, there's work for the listener to do to fully engage what's been created here. It you put in the time, From Scratch will provide the rewards.



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