Taylor's Universe: Worn Out (2013)
One can only hope that Robin Taylor was being ironic when he titled his latest collection Worn Out. Musically, it follows in the footsteps of his recent recordings with Taylor's Universe; Kind of Red (Marvel of Beauty, 2012) and Return to Whatever (Marvel of Beauty, 2009). But there's a freshness, fire and vigor here that suggests the Danish multi-instrumentalist and composer still has plenty of lead in his pencil. The personnel on Worn Out is also largely the same as on Taylor's recent recordings. Klaus Thrane's drumming is heavy and aggressive, yet light-footed enough to impart a jazzy feel. Returning soloists include the über-versatile saxophonist Jakob Mygind (ss/ts) and the silky-toned trumpeter Hugh Steinmetz.
Notable is the return of saxophonist Karsten Vogela veteran of the Danish jazz and prog-rock scene who worked with Steinmetz and John Tchicai in that country's premier 60s psych band, Burnin' Red Ivanhoe. He'd also worked extensively with Taylor through the 90s and 00s, but seemed to drop out of sight as of late. His electronically-processed alto saxophone gives the dark atmospheres of "Munich" a sizzling electronic edge, and his soulful alto on "Sergeant Pepperoni" is a pliant foil for guitarist Jon Hemmersam's outré stylings.
Hemmersam is, in fact, one of Taylor's newest musical partners and he provides considerable improvisational fire on Worn Out. A musical polymath who's worked extensively with Dame Evelyn Glennie and violist Szilard Mezei, Hemmersam's guitar solos have an emotionally direct, visceral impact reminiscent of what one gets from 70s-era John McLaughlin and Robert Fripp. Stylistically, however, there's a lot more going on in Hemmersam's playing than old school prog and fusionhe has a distinctly free-associative avant- garde approach to the guitar that's unlike anyone else's. This tendency provides quite a bit of contrast to the uniformly excellent, but more conventionally jazzy, horn soloists. During an exchange with Mygind on "Cruelty in Words," for example, he completes the saxophonist's bluesy phrases with some twisted blues of his own before launching into ecstatic, almost atonal, flurries of notes that both complement and contrast the cheerily upbeat nature of the tune.
Taylor's compositions on Worn Out are bit more varied than those on the preceding CD, Kind of Red, though they hew largely to a similar set of musical parameters. Whistle-able, even jaunty melodies and chiming repeating figures are perched atop brooding cinematic landscapes comprised of heavy drums, multi-layered guitars and an ever-changing palette of analogue keyboards. Though the tempos of these pieces are moderate-to-slow, the music never plods. Horn and guitar solos pop up in odd places, and harmonic / rhythmic changes occur when you least expect them to.
Perhaps the most remarkable track here is the phantasmagoric "Jens in Afghanistan," wherein a sweetly goofy Mellotron melody is layered over a collage of martial drums, several radio talk-show broadcasts, and Steinmetz' low- volume free-jazz musings. All of this is upended by an absolutely stomping 9/8 groove with Steinmetz' trumpet still fluttering amidst odd keyboard and guitar sounds. Despite its oddness, it works. Much the same could be said of the entire CDit's the sort of music that reveals something new about itself with each successive listen.
Track Listing: Floating Rats; Munich; Imaginary Church; Cruelty in Words; Jens in Afghanistan; Sergeant Pepperoni.
Personnel: Robin Taylor: guitars, basses, keyboards, percussion, allsorts; Klaus Thrane: drums; Jakob Mygind: soprano and tenor saxophones; Karsten Vogel: soprano and alto saxophones; Hugh Steinmetz: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Hemmersam: guitar (all solos); Louise Nipper: voice (2).
Record Label: Marvel of Beauty