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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Taylor's Universe

(with Karsten Vogel) - Once Again

Review by Josh Turner

I knew nothing about this band when I slipped this disc in. My first impression was one of confusion and utter uneasiness. Within the first few seconds, I was already worried about the avant-garde nightmares I'd be having at night. My gut tensed up and I began to loathe what I was hearing. Yeah, you could say I was judging this book by its cover, but lucky for me, this would not result in an ulcer.

The joke was on me as it turned into something a little more accessible. Before I had a chance to halt what I was hearing, the music made an unexpected leap. Eureka I thought as if a light bulb went off in my head. Quickly, I became absorbed by the breath-taking breakthrough I was hearing. While it does have its avant-garde moments, the music takes us to many accessible places. This is fortunate for people like myself who are not into the so-called ultramodern art you find in progressive rock these days. While you likely won't hear this on the airwaves anytime soon, it really isn't too far out there. It is eccentric at times, but has a little bit of something for everyone. Most of the songs begin with an insane act, but chill out and eventually find themselves some stability. I am sure both fans of the avant-garde and the accessible will find common ground here. In a way, it is a truce between these diametrically different sides of music.

The man behind this music, Robin Taylor, is a true multi-instrumentalist. He provides bass, guitar, piano, synth, various percussions, and programmed drums. He composed the songs, produced the album, and even owns the record company that released the album. Karsten Vogel is his second mate, bringing in a bass clarinet as well as several types of saxes (e.g. soprano, tenor, alto). While a few other guests make brief appearances, these two alone are the main act. Overall, I was quite impressed with the music on this album. Every song offered something a little different from the last. For those who like experimental jazz, rock, or fusion, I highly recommend it. At first you may want to turn it off, but give it a chance. Once you make it down the rabbit hole, a world of adventure awaits you.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Groop
It begins neither with a bang nor with a whimper, but rather with the kind of sounds you'd expect from a tropical rainforest. Hidden behind trees and brush, you hear several creatures calling out. After a full minute of controlled chaos, the jungle starts jumping and the ecosystem comes alive. The guitars and keyboards sound like trumpeting elephants, trampling everything in their path. What it becomes is jazz rock and it is far from fashionable. The tempo remains constant while different instruments take their turns peeking out. You get Congo Bongo sounds provided by Robin Taylor's percussions. Kim Menzer's didgeridoo, Pierre Tassone's violins, and Rasmus Grosell's drums give this an animalistic soul. It is an odd, but intriguing way to start an album. For something this goofy, it is actually quite captivating.
Oyster Jungle
Once again, abnormal anomalies start this piece. Then it flows into a river of audio elation, featuring soprano sax, synths, and something called the Stringman. The guitars and bass give this song its extra-added kick. It's like hot and spicy noodles enriched with pungent curry powder. The bass is ominous and ornery while all the other instruments are nothing but happy, happy, joy, joy. It burns your mouth, makes your tongue sweat, and brings warmth to your tummy. After one bite, you'll crave the peppers in this piece.
Bellahoy
This is dark, bleak, and dreadfully dreary. In this film noir, the sax is the only character exhibiting good intentions. Louise Nipper is the one responsible for the scary voices calling out from the other side of the curtain. Running from him and the rest of the antagonizing noises, you lose your footing. After falling down a flight of stairs, you're shaken and stirred, but decide to keep moving. Once again, you make a mad dash for the door and trip over some percussive elements on the way out. A spark followed by a flame and then the building is on fire. Just like that this mystery is finally over.

Conference at Bird Mountain
This sounds like a congregation of birds flocking overhead. From down below, you nudge those next to you and stare in disbelief at their numbers. It is a combination of random activity, sheer amusement, and indiscriminate disorder. Get too close and you'll find yourself the victim in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It's a long and winding piece, which would get boring if it had continued with the same repeated riffs. However, the birds try out various flying formations. Midway, your attention is turned to a lonely sax hovering all by its lonesome. The piano eventually joins in, followed by the synths. Before long, everybody else is back in flight once again. As busy as it becomes, they try to give the sax enough room to move about, but it truly is a difficult premise amidst the congested airspace.
Way Back in '85
This is like a crime scene investigation with a piano that is so creepy, it's suited for a horror picture. The yellow tape is unraveled as they quarantine the area off. The rain pours down forcing the umbrellas come out. Chalk markings are sketched, photos are snapped, and samples are taken. Alas, we come across a weird compound made of bass. It's weird and distorted, not at all what one would expect. Later in the lab, the piano, percussive tools, and other precise devices work to uncover the truth. After many tedious and pain-staking hours of forensics, the facts slowly come into focus. It is time we get the warrant drafted and pay the suspect a visit. We believe it is Tony Levin doing King Crimson-like licks. Lurking in the shadows, Robin is laughing as he is the sole person masterminding these awfully entertaining events.

Suspect Terrain
The sax is the featured instrument once again. The remaining instruments provide a steady flow and lay out a consistent surface. It's simple jazz with the slightest bit of bounce. The bongos are what make these beans jump. Louise Nipper makes another round in her residency.

Lazy B
Once again, we end with another long one. It has a cadence similar to Phil Collin's "Groovy Kind of Love." It's as lazy as a lump of coal, but manages to keep our attention. It's like the song of the Sirens as it pulls you closer and closer. It seems too simple to have any kind of effect, yet we are somehow under its control. Eventually, we are pulled us into a deep dark abyss, indefinitely losing us on the very edge of limbo. Then it ends with the most deafening of silence.

 
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