Saturday, 18 February 2017

Taylor's Free Universe - Family Shot

"Prog" is a word derived from progressive, so I have always found it somewhat ironic that a lot of prog fans are very conservative in their musical outlook and view anything that wanders even a tad from their comfy parameters with at best suspicion and at worst instant dismissal. A few years ago in the process of reviewing the fine modern fusion album Worn Out by Danish guitarist Robin Taylor's Taylor's Universe, in the course of research - yes, some of us amateur scribblers do actually do that - I stumbled across a dismissive non-review on the prog review site DPRP of an album by the name of Family Shot by the improv extension of Robin's band, Taylor's Free Universe. The review consisted of three words, these being "Noise, not music". That kind of dismissive statement by a cloth eared ignoramus and probable Genesis-clone loving fool only served to pique my interest, but unfortunately I failed to track down the album in question.

Time passed and I developed an online acquaintance with Robin, having gone on to review a few of his many releases, and I mentioned this episode in passing. Robin remembered and sometime last year a package arrived containing the elusive shiny disc of "noise, not music". Wahey...on to the CD player it goes, and no surprises, but it is far more than "noise", and it is certainly "music", albeit of a seriously free and avant variety. The nine minute Nine Nice'n'Easy Pieces might be a jazz take on Henry Cow at their most obtuse, but this is not simply difficult for the sake of it, as the music is structured and themes emerge and reappear.

The instrumentation gives the whole album a feel closer to experimental rock than free jazz, although the sensibilities of the latter are used throughout to good effect. Totally improvised, the opening track Strategy commences with a discussion in Danish of what is or might be about to happen. Robin's treated guitar phrases on Like A Nervous Car Wreck, and his distressed pachyderm impressions on The Elephant Cure, along with the sonic rumble of Peter Friis Neilsen's rubberband bass, especially so on M'Fisto Rubberphunk, Pierre Tassone's expressionistic violin, and Lars Juul's powerful rhythms make for a never less than entertaining listen. The only traditional jazz instruments in the frontline are Kim Menzer's clarinet and trombone, which when they appear add an icy steel to proceedings similar to Chris Botti's incursions on the Bruford-Levin Upper Extremties enthralling live album Blue Nights.

Closing track Z Return riffs for a while on another of Nielsen's sinuous bass lines, with Mezner's trombone zooming in and out of focus amid percussive embellishments of a high quality. The track eventually becalms into a stationery orbit as swathes of synth-guitar ambience wonder at the countless stars, proof if any were needed of the sadly closed mind of that DPRP "reviewer" who jettisoned this fine album in a manner he no doubt thought was clever but really only served to underline his ignorance. There is only one one-line review that was actually funny, and it's pointless trying to emulate it. I refer of course to Mick Farren's caustic but chucklesome opinion of Yes's first album from 1968: "Yes? No."

Sadly, Taylor's Free Universe have long been defunct, but Robin, both as a solo artist and as part of Taylor's Universe continues to make some fine music, as you will find when you visit the Bandcamp page.

1. Strategy (2:26)
2. M'Fisto Rubberphunk (15:11)
3. Angel Stairs (3:37)
4. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - First (0:23)
5. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Second9 (0:20)
6. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Third (0:20)
7. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Fourth (0:31)
8. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Fifth (0:40)
9. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Sixth (1:12)
10. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Seventh (0:48)
11. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Eight (1:36)
12. Nine Nice 'N' Easy Pieces - Ninth (3:58)
13. Like A Nervous Car Wreck (4:05)
14. The Elephant Cure (7:20)
15. Z Return (13:05)

Total running time - 55:39

Line up:
Pierre Tassone - processed violin, percussion
Kim Menzer - clarinet, trombone, strange flute
Robin Taylor - guitars, loops, manipulations
Peter Friis Nielsen - bass guitar
Lars Juul - drums, objects



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