If you’ve never heard of Robin Taylor, then you are in the majority. It won’t be long before his name will be more universal as his music is available from American indie music sources like CD Baby.com and Amazon. Taylor’s website gives more sources.
Robin is a multi-instrumentalist and composer from Denmark that has played with many other Danish musicians but one that classic progressive music lovers from 70's will recognize is Karsten Vogel from Secret Oyster. Karsten appears on many of his CD’s and the 2nd disc on this 2 disc set. Taylor has been playing since the 70's as well. Amongst his many releases, you find quite a variety of jazz fusion, electronics, and experimental ( even soundtrack ) music. I have found all of them to be superior. This new “Two-Pack” is no exception. Loaded with variety but still very much identifiable as Robin Taylor. You’ll find that he has many recordings under either just Robin Taylor or Robin Taylor’s Universe.
There are only a total of five songs on the “Two-Pack” release since they are the odd 3" size CD, each in their own cardboard artwork sleeve. First disc in purple hue has 3 songs. For total of 22:29 minutes. 3rd song “Stoned Mushroom” really blows you away with it’s 7:19 two stage progression. Very powerful and those who love jazz fusion in the more ethereal classical building model like Pekka Pohjola’s best stuff, will love this. It’s saxophone strong with a bed of keys and fine drum beat. The first song “Heavy Friends” starts with a bang and you feel you might have some Soft Machine mid period music on your hands, but it adds in a nice heavier fusion similar to the more intense sound of Pierre Moerlen’s Gong ( Allan Holdsworth period). Excellent jazz rock to be sure!
The 2nd song “The Ghost of Goran” clocks in at 9:56 minutes and has a more gentle beginning with a 132-135 bpm tick pulling you along until it goes into a very dreamy quiet and aquatic passage that is very suspenseful. Organ chord lays the bed with a slow incoming synth pattern and drums with sax, and before you know it, you are back in a complex jazz rock part that gets back into that Soft Machine at their heaviest sound. It then goes back into the beginning progression with a nice pace, and then not to ever get stale, it builds again and kicks that same progression a bit harder. I am sure others will hear more comparisons, and I sometimes hate using direct similarities, but I always appreciated reviewers who told me what other bands the record sounded like, to wet my appetite and give me some idea of what it really sounds like before I bought it.
For disc two ( the green hued cover) we have 2 songs clocking in at 23:25, so you see you do get a full CD’s worth of music from this “Two-Pack”. This features Karsten Vogel so the sax is a bit different sounding. The lead guitar work is much more aggressive too. First song “Dark City” is 11:41 and really kicks into high gear. Just cooking jazz fusion but not so crowded that you can’t hear every single musician very clearly. The bass player (Assi Roar) reminds me a lot of Jeff Berlin on this song. This disc does not have keyboards on it but adds electric violin. You still have plenty of sax from Vogel and a free jazz sound at times. It still visits a heavy area Soft Machine and Gong ( instrumental jam style) at points, but overall, it just kicks butt. It features all different musicians than the first disc. The only one on both is of course, Robin Taylor. So you would be correct to assume this disc does sound somewhat different than the first disc. This one is more jam intense and it is all improvised. Don’t be scared of the improv nature as it is very composed sounding the bulk of the time.
The 2nd song “Don’t You Miles Me!” begins with same instrumental line up and sound as previous song, but more medium tempo, leaving room to explore and build. It reminds me of ZAO ( great French jazz fusion band ) along with the earlier mentions of Gong ( except the lead is nothing like the tone of Steve Hillage or Holdsworth -just to confirm both eras). The lead is more biting and sometimes synthesized. They have you fooled at one point on this 2nd song, as it appears the drumbeat is changing to another rhythm, but they hold on to the initial pocket and continue. Further evidence it is improvised music. The drummer is ready to change the pace and path any minute and then it happens again, a break in the groove, and about 9 minutes in, they let go and WAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! But yet another sustained part, and the song just drifts out from there. Quite a nice jam!
Since I own over a dozen more Robin Taylor CD’s, I can tell you this “Two Pack” only scratches the surface of what Robin can do, and has done on record. It’s enough to wet your appetite, but you would be richly rewarded to buy more of his stuff.. Robin Taylor is one of Denmark’s most innovative musicians, and seemingly quite unknown in many parts of the world, especially the USA. I highly recommend his music, to say the least.
Reviewed by Lee Henderson on February 7th, 2011