Not too many people are familiar with the Danish progressive rock scene, I presume, but I would say that if you don't you may be missing something. What characterized the Danish scene during the 1970s is the way they combined progressive rock and jazz or jazz-rock. If you get the chance, do check out bands like Secret Oyster and Burnin' Red Ivanhoe.
Robin Taylor was a name that I had heard and read about before. He has been around since the 1970s and has already delivered an impressive catalogue since his debut in the early 1990s. He records in several guises, under his own name, or in the bands Art Cinema, Communio Musica, Taylor's Free Universe and Taylor's Universe. The latter both feature renowned Danish musician Karsten Vogel (since 1998 that is) who previously played in the aforementioned Secret Oyster and Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. Alas I never had a chance to actually listen to Taylor's work, but thanks to our main editor, I now finally got the chance to start with his latest piece of work. Expectations are high. Here we go.
The album kicks off energetically with Other Meetings that has a great contemporary retro-prog feel (hope you can forgive me this contradictio intermis) that reminds me a bit of The Flower Kings. Great vintage keyboards, soaring guitars and calm flute. About 3 minutes into the piece we get an interesting change of pace that then ends up in a soaring synth-solo to which wind instruments are joined for a beautiful ending.
Beta X is a bit of another direction with a somewhat experimental start. This eventually changes into a steady beat over which Vogel's soprano sax gets some room for a beautiful part at first, but soon there's just weird experimentation. The end has some bubbling synths. A strange piece of music.
Balcony People takes us into rockier realms with some roaring organ and guitarist Claus Bøhling (formerly of Hurdy Gurdy, Secret Oyster and other Danish bands) steps to the front as does Thomas Ulstrup with another delicious Mini Moog solo. Oddly the ending of the song again dissolves into something experimental.
Interrail is the longest piece, clocking at 9:17 minutes. This also starts experimentally, then settles for a beat and brings an odd combination of light-hearted female voices singing “na na na na” (somewhat Latin flavoured I'm tempted to say) over which saxophones get to improvise a bit. This suddenly ends and we're up for a creepy middle part before it seems like the entire band freaks out in a chaotic piece of music from which the “na na” singing emerges again.
This weird piece is followed by the album's shortest track, Laura's Lullaby (not even 3 minutes). Calm piano and soprano sax with gentle wordless female voices characterize this gentle piece. Für Louise is dominated by bass clarinet at first to which then piano is added and eventually a threatening piece of prog emerges with soloing soprano sax, electric guitars and Mini Moog (that indeed improvises a bit on Beethoven's Für Elise).
The final track Autumn River starts calmly and then out of muted keyboard and (I believe) wind instruments emerges a Pink Floyd kind of guitar that cuts right through everything. A great ending to an interesting, but in no way easy album.
For me an interesting first acquaintance with Taylor's universe (pun intended). Now I must find the time to explore a bit of the back catalogue (over 20 CDs to pick from there...).
***+ Carsten Busch (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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