I feel a bit like a party gate-crasher, as a minimum I'm very late: Isle of Black is Robin Taylor's 11th solo album but only my first introduction to the man's music, either solo or with his bands Taylor's Universe and Taylor's Free Universe. Sorry I'm late, but it seems like it's a good party!
Isle of Black is an eclectic album mixing jazz, rock and keyboard-led progressive-rock, only not always together in the same pot. "Confession" is fairly straight keyboard-led progressive-rock, "Johannesburg" adds a little more of a jazz influence rhythmically, "Swinger" introduces Karsten Vogel on saxophone and I would classify it as straight jazz (with just a bit of synthesizer in the background), "Isle of Black" keeps the sax but adds rockier elements, and "Mind Archaeology" brings them all together. It's good, it's pleasant but it's not earth-shattering and as a result of the break-up of styles the album has more the feel of a compilation than of a unifed, coherent set of songs that the best albums do.
Just to reinforce that latter point is the final track "Izmit", called a "bonus track" - I'm not a fan of bonus tracks, an album should be listened to as the artist conceived it, not with some add-ons bolted on, often at random. Same story here, only worse as it's the longest composition on the album, despite being nothing more than an occasional four bass note melody played in a certain rhythm over a constant synthesizer backdrop, save for one other brief melodic phrase. The promotional material calls this "a soundtrack-like album of contrasting moods and atmospheres" - fair enough but in the case of "Izmit" then it's a very boring film!
Bonus-track aside it's a very enjoyable, compilation-style album: Karsten's saxophone playing is particulalrly enjoyable. Robin has also brought in Rasmus Grosell (drums) and Louise Nipper (voice). There is no singing as such, only some vocoderised voice on "Confession" and some vocalisations and harmonising occasionally elsewhere - treat this as an instrumental album.
So - bar the final track this is pleasant enough for easy listening - fans of jazz should enjoy it. It's a short album by today's standards though, so I guess that explains the bonus track, although I'd have preferred it to have been coming in at around the 30 minutes, even if meant calling it an EP.
1) Confession (6:15)
2) Johannesburg (6:11)
3) Swingers (4:03)
4) Isle of Black (4:58)
5) Mind Archaeology (9:44)