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Taylor's Universe - Taylor's Universe & Karsten Vogel: Oyster's Apprentice CD (album) cover


Taylor's Universe



4.00 | 14 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Taylor's Universe is such a special creature in the recent history of art-rock: this band led by Robin C. Taylor should be more acknowledged and appreciated by avant-rock and jazz-rock fans all over the world, but it remains only appreciated by a few despite the impressive quality of its discography. The item to be reviewed right now is "Oyster's Apprentice", an album that bears the peculiarity of comprising pieces that have been composed in various years: for instance, 'Lost Title' and 'Aiolos' are the older pieces, written in 1976, while 'Vue (Time Bolero)' is a bit younger since its inception dates back to 1979. The opener and the closer are the only tracks written in the new millennium. Well, this album is from 2005 and that's official, a historical fact. Taylor plays guitars, keyboards, percussion, even some recorder, but of course, he also benefits of the crucial presence of some guest musicians; the most featured one is sax/clarinet player Korsten Vogel, whose name is even highlighted on the cover. Let's check the repertoire itself now. The opener is entitled 'Ghost Reporters' and it flaunts a colorful mood filled with humorous nuances, which is largely due to the tropical feel toward the main motif is oriented; moderately complex moods, catchy horn arrangements and a great guitar solo somewhere along the road serve well as elements of sophistication. 'The Arrangement', in turn, closes down the album as an act of mischievous fun: it starts as a new version of 'Ghost Reporters' but soon turns into an exercise on spacey minimalistic avant-jazz a-la Tortoise, featuring harmonium and woodwind. What happens in the middle is a motivation for diverse pleasant experiences waiting to ornate the life of every potential listener. 'That Strange Plaza' states a sense of strangeness in its initial mysterious ambiences ? including the use of weird distorted sonic tricks ? but once the main body settles in, what we find and enjoy is a relaxed statement of nice, laid-back melodic developments where the synth layers and sax solos take center stage among the whole instrumental framework. 'Joe Hill's Recorder' and 'Lost Title' segue into each other, creating a fluid horizon of crafted melodic structures and refined arrangements. The main melodic focus has a graceful quality to it while it subtly alludes to grayish atmospheres and some sort of spiritual restlessness, but, all in all, it is the exquisite serenity of the interaction of drums and keyboards that prevails and, by doing so, the graceful quality happens to be inevitably dominant. Isn't that a strategy to enhance some sense of impending doom without letting the listener be totally aware of the doom's immensity? Perhaps, why not? 'Vue (Time Bolero)' is a track that certainly reveals a kind of scary atmosphere, almost like flirting with the dark musicality that makes up the standard of chamber-rock, but again, the mention of this particular standard is only a referential description. (Maybe the writer wasn't acquainted with Univers Zero when he composed this piece.) On the martial framework of the drum kit and the orchestral density created by the keyboard layers ? synth and harmonium ? lies the fog of limbo, filling the whole world; once the guitar furiously erupts into an intense, psychedelic solo, the wildness of something dangerous shows its face. It's a pity that this guitar solo should be so short, but it serves its purpose well, and shortly after, a magnificent alto sax solo (by Vogel, of course) states another classy moment of emotional tension (not unlike those solos provided by Mel Collins on KC's 'Starless'). 'Aiolos' is eerie and majestic, revolving around a simplistic motif and making it sophisticated in a most subtle way: it bears family resemblances with some compositions we find in other TU albums ("Return To Whatever", "Kind Of Red", "Worn Out"), and that's OK. The guitar solo played by guest Jon Hemmersam is not to be missed. 'Iron Wood' (a track written in 1989) starts softly, with the acoustic guitar assuming a protagonist role, but afterwards, once the ensemble settles the track's main body, the dynamics grows and the stage is set for a demonstration of the extroverted side of TU. Percussive ornaments and yet another great sax solo are noticeable factors for the groove's development. Well, at the end of the day, this is a great album, not as impressive as other albums that we know from the Taylor's Universe catalogue, but it has its own big merits.
Cesar Inca | 4/5 |


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