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(44:33, Marvel of Beauty)
TRACK LIST: 1. Other Meetings 5:17 2. Beta X 7:32 3. Balcony People 7:25 4. Interrail 9:17 5. Laura's Lullaby 2:56 6. For Louise 5:09 7. Autumn River 6:57 LINEUP: Robin C. Taylor bass, guitars; keyboards; percussion Karsten Vogel saxophone, clarinet Thomas Thor Ulstrup mini-Moog Claus Bohling guitars Klaus Thrane drums With: Louise Nipper vocals Finn Olafsen el. guitar Jakob Mygind saxophone Carsten Sindvald saxophone Jytte Lindberg vocals Jan Fischer vocals
Prolusion. The Danish project TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE was formed in 1993, and the first CD was released the following year. This project has been going ever since, in different guises over the years, and as of 2015, 14 studio albums are credited to this band. "From Scratch" was released in 2015 by Taylor's own label Marvel of Beauty Records.
Analysis. Robin Taylor has been a prolific creator of music for the last 20 or so years, often releasing more than one album each year as a solo artist, with various projects and bands and with the by now fairly long going Taylor's Universe. Among the fascinating aspects of this artist is that he always manages to develop, and he can release at times markedly different-sounding albums within a fairly short amount of time. Even the Taylor's Universe albums represent a fairly diverse back catalog at this point, although elements that can be traced back, jazz rock and symphonic progressive, tend to feature in most of the material. "From Scratch" is a production that continues in that vein, albeit with a few minute differences from earlier albums. The most noticeable amongst them is the more liberal use of voice effects and vocals, even if the latter remain non-verbal. The organ and keyboards may also have somewhat less of a dominant role in the proceedings than on earlier albums, at least that is a feeling I get. The compositions tend to revolve around some key elements, where organ, keyboards, guitar and saxophone are the dominant instruments. The organ with more of a supplemental role on this occasion, and perhaps with a bit more room for guitar details than on some previous albums too. The individual compositions revolve partially around strong motifs and arrangements, and partially around more atmospheric mood sequences, where opening track Other Meetings pairs of two instruments in dual soloing, where one instrument has a dominant and one a supplemental role. While the following Beta X revolves around otherworldly effects that one might associate with aliens speaking, broken up by a midsection, sporting nonverbal female lead vocals. Balcony People is another creation using voices, sampled and effects treated recording of people speaking a key recurring element here, opening with a delicate organ and sax arrangement on top of the aforementioned voices and continuing with alternating soloing and effects by keyboards, organ and guitar prior to revisiting the opening arrangement. Interrail is a clear highlight for me, with dark, eerie effects blooming into a circulating, jubilant affair, sporting elongated vocals sequences, broken up by a male voice shouting midways, with keyboards and saxophone taking us on a slightly eerie run back towards the aforementioned jubilant theme again. Laura's Lullaby follows with a sweetly melancholic saxophone, piano and organ arrangement, and the following For Louise is an instance of a composition that starts on a darker mood and blossoms into a jubilant affair with saxophone soloing, spirited guitar bursts and some magnificent layered keyboard arrangements. The concluding Autumn River is more of an unnerving melancholic creation, with guitar, piano and organ central in a run of instrumental soloing and effects on top of a hovering and intensifying underlying theme that never explodes into a takeover of the song, even if you have the feeling that it will do just that all along. If I do justice to the music by giving such a track by track description, I don't know though, as describing the individual elements at hand really doesn't justice to this music. Then again, Taylor does tend to create music that is hard to describe, difficult to pinpoint and just about impossible to compare to others, so to get any idea at all about what this album is all about it is difficult to avoid doing that, at least on this occasion. I should probably add that the compositions are all masterly mixed and produced, that all the elements fit just about perfectly into the context they are used, with extra plus signs from me for the contributions from Jytte Lindberg and Louise Nipper on vocals. And that the end result on this occasion, as on just about all the other CDs Taylor has created over the years, is music with a charming, timeless quality to it. Not material that will be enjoyed by the masses, but a very well made creation that will have an appeal towards attentive listeners of adventurous music with challenging details.
Conclusion. "From Scratch" adds another chapter to the quality material created and performed by band leader Robin Taylor and the current members and guests of Taylor's Universe, a well made, and, dare I say, polished, adventurous creation with beautiful instrumental soloing going hand in hand with darker and mystical sounds, eerie effects, and also with beautiful and at times stunning female nonverbal lead vocals in uplifting and joyful movements. With guitars, organ, vintage keyboards and saxophone as vital instrumental ingredients in this rather unique and charming Danish brew.
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