10 March 2009

REVIEW: Robin Taylor - Isle of Black

Robin Taylor, it seems, just can’t quite take a break.

Oh, I’m actually sure he does…here and there, and maybe for 5 or 10 minutes. Then, it seems, something inspires, and a new album starts to form. It may be ambient, or song based, or a thought about a set of totally free, improvised music. It may be inspired by Canterbury, or the German electronic music scene. Whatever little irritant has lodged itself in his brain gets coated in countless layers of sound, and the pearl that results is then placed on an ever lengthening shelf displaying his extensive curriculum vitae.

Today we are looking at his most recent but one release, Isle of Black (as reported a few days ago, another new Robin Taylor album is imminent). Essentially a trio album, Taylor is joined by longtime collaborator Karsten Vogel (he of Secret Oyster…and hey, the pearl analogy comes full circle!) on saxophones and Rasmus Grosell on drums. Louise Nipper again contributes voice to a few pieces (mostly wordless vocalise), while Taylor again covers a wide swath of instrumental voices…guitar, bass, keys, and additional percussion.

The album opens with the smoking “Confession,” a 6 minute rocker of an instrumental that seems to draw as much from pre-Lightbulb Sun/Stupid Dream Porcupine Tree as it does King Crimson. Long time readers know I hate making comparisons from band to band…but there’s no other way really to describe a song. Might as well dance about architecture, I suppose. The beat is insistent and driving, the bass work locks in with the drums, and Taylor’s guitar snarls and buzzes in a most nasty way. I love it. This is followed by the slower, moodier “Johannesburg,” another 6-minute instrumental that brings the mood down suitably. A gentle piano line opens the piece, followed by layers of organ, synth and vocal. Grosell’s drums keep the beet, pulsing and occasionally breaking up the hypnotic flow just enough to keep the listener from getting too at ease.

“Swingers” sees Taylor hitting the jazz clubs for a smoky, hip little number. Vogel shines on saxophone while Grosell and Taylor swing and jive behind him. It’s a different vibe and feel from the vast majority of Taylor’s material, and evidence that he’ll try out almost any style of music once (now, if a future Taylor album features a song that draws from early 2000’s girl fronted pop, we may have some cause for alarm. But I digress…). “Swingers” is a cool, infectious little number that I am absolutely smitten with. “Isle of Black,” the obligatory title track, sees Taylor back in more familiar territory, with a driving, insistent number that features some nifty syncopation, intense organ, and more change-ups and shifts in song than tracks twice as long or more (the song clocks in at 4:55). In some ways, one could say this is one of the ultimate distillations of Taylor’s modus operandi

The album proper closes with “Mind Archaeology.” The longest proper track on the release at 9:13, it opens with an intense riff, which quickly drops out in favour of a suspended synth line, a few pings, and brushes on hi hats. A very angular, processed guitar line breaks the ‘silence,’ ascending in pitch and volume with each iteration of the theme. Taylor is joined by Karsten Vogel’s almost unhinged sax playing, all the while underpinned by Grosell’s almost tribal drums. Like much of Taylor’s material, the song does anything but remain static, shifting and changing in an almost life-like, organic way. Vogel gets an extended opportunity to solo, and the rest of the band drops out to the point of being almost inaudible, allowing tenor and alto sax to swirl around each other almost playfully.

I say the album proper closes with that track because the following piece, “Izmit,” is listed as a bonus track. At 11:05, it is the longest track on this release, and it is responsible for bringing the album over 40 minutes in length. It really doesn’t fit in to the album for me, based around a looped bit of percussion, some synth, and various bursts of sound intermixed with occasional vocal bits. I’d have been happy with a 30 minute EP of the first 5 tracks, as I find them to be a cohesive whole despite their variety of style. “Izmit” is a piece I think I’ll probably play less often than the rest of the album…it’s not a ‘penalty track’ (as contrasted to a ‘bonus track’), but it’s not overly essential.

Isle of Black is another strong release from the prolific Danish multi-instrumentalist, one showing him still striving to progress and try new things with each release.


Confession – 6:10

Johannesburg – 6:09

Swingers – 4:01

Isle of Black – 4:55

Mind Archaeology – 9:13

Bonus Track:

Izmit – 11:05

Robin Taylor – guitars, bass, keys, percussion

Karsten Vogel – saxophones

Rasmus Grosell – drums

Louise Nipper – voice

Composed, arranged and produced by Robin Taylor

Released on Transubstans Records, catalogue number TRANS 031


Anonymous said...

Could you upload these albums?thanx

Bill K. said...

You can purchase this album directly fro the artist, directly finding him and allowing him to create more music like this.

You may purchase official, legal copies here: