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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Taylor's Universe

(with Karsten Vogel) - Oyster's Apprentice

Review by Josh Turner

If you liked Robin Taylor's Once Again, this album makes the perfect companion. This is actually much of the same material, which makes it closely complement his previous creation. While his last may have been dry and dreary, his sidekick is significantly wetter, you could almost say it was soaked. It's like a shower of saxes, keys, and percussion raining down around you. With each album clocking in at approximately 30 minutes a piece, you might wonder why they didn't come on the same disc. In either case, they go together like Easy Cheese and Ritz Crackers.

If I had to choose between the two, I'd say this one is slightly better mainly due to the fact it uses real drums. Rasmus Grossell does the drums on five tracks. Kalle Mathiesen provides them on the remaining three. In addition, the songs are seemingly more varied as the saxes, guitars, and drums trade-off as the focal point to each piece. While the last album merely switched from melodic moans to dark passages, this one jazzes out, boogies down, and shakes it tail to some tenacious soul.

Robin Taylor satisfies the mainstream without selling out. He also succeeds at keeping the avant-garde junkies happy too. This is no small feat entertaining to these two camps. Like Tim Burton, he just seems to have a knack for composing oddly interesting pieces. Oyster's Apprentice should appeal to people regardless of their affiliated party. If you started with Once Again, this should be a shoe in for best supporting album.

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
Ghost Reporters
This will take you from Aruba to Jamaica. We'll beach comb from Bermuda to Bahama. We'll even have fun in the sun from Key Largo to Montego. Ultimately our plane touches down in a place called Kokomo. It's the right tune to play as you're sailing off on a Caribbean getaway. Unlike the first track off the last album, we start normally then take our vessel out to voodoo land. That seems to be the case with this entire album. The avant-garde tendencies are slightly more suppressed, but they still manage to make their grand appearances at some point in every piece.
That Strange Plaza
We are plugged into The Matrix and lost in a Tangerine Dream. Our awakening is slow and painless. Eventually, we are wide-eyed, ready to explore this brand-new dimension. There are robotic sounds all around; you'd think R2-D2 was trying to talk to us. The solos are glimmering and the beat glows with glee. You picture a translucent palace suspended high above a Technicolor horizon. You're not sure if you are seeing a mirage of the Maharaja, but in either case, the surroundings are strangely foreign. You're floating in a sea of technology and light. It's as if you've been uploaded into a Middle-Eastern version of Tron.

Joe Hill's Recorder
As something new, we get a harmonium and several types of recorders. The song is extremely short, but it's one special presentation.

Lost Title
While the last album was dark with a little light, this is light with a little dark. This is one of the shadier pieces and it's bronzed, even slightly burnt. While we don't climb completely into the shadows, there is something sinister to this song. The soprano and alto saxes provide us with comfort. The keyboards and cymbals, on the other hand, do a good job of creeping us out. This is the scene where the psychiatrist peers into a cell and sees a psycho drooling behind the bars. Metal doors provide separation, but they don't relieve all of the tension. With a snap of the jaw and a grinding of the teeth, you'll certainly want to keep your distance.

Vue (Time Bolero)
This has the slow build of the classic "Bolero." Lead by a drum corps it takes a long time to get started. Once it does, it jams and squirts juice. Jon Hemmersam provides something called a Variax guitar. His contributions are incensed and irate. The soprano recorder quickly tags along with a passionate and persuasive solo. Lost in a busy bazaar, these two musicians are like misplaced children asking for directions. This is the slowest, sparsest piece, but there are still numerous elements trying to reach out and grab you. The last thing you'll want to do is let your guard down or fall asleep.
Aiolos
Paradise is found in this piece. It's the most vibrant doohickey in the dowry. Jon comes back again, this time providing a sentimental solo on his electric guitar. While Karsten strikes out on the sax, Robin will stun you with his synchs.

Iron Wood
Finally, we get a piece that features an acoustic guitar, but it's not completely unplugged. Supporting instruments are present to provide the missing power. This is the electric boogaloo and it is my favorite out of all the numbers. Under the tones and a strobing-red light is a rhythm not too unlike the Knight Rider theme music. While iron flows through this machine's internal organs, a personality chip is fused to its positronic brain, making it both lifelike and perky.

The Arrangement
This is one cool cut as it mixes some of the earlier ideas together. It's a hodgepodge of melodies, beats, and rhythms streaming one after the other. It takes no care when it comes to stitching them together. It's basically a crash course in the album with some additional technology tied in.
 
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