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Artificial Joy by Taylor's Universe

Artificial Joy continues Danish guitarist, keyboardist, composer, and arranger Robin Taylor's success at crafting tasty, memorable, and highly enjoyable instrumental music that straddles the boundary between progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion. Since the departure of ace saxophonist Carsten Vogel, Taylor's music has been hewing more and more towards the progressive rock end of the spectrum, which seems natural in light of Taylor's penchant for really big drum sounds, grand themes, shredding proto-metal guitars, and Baroque-sounding keyboard progressions. Taylor's compositions, while not overly busy, always come across as too substantial to serve merely as backgrounds to a succession of guitar and saxophone solos. Yet, the jazz side of Taylor's sensibility is still strong. For one thing, Taylor really believes in the saxophone as a lead instrument, and the duo of Carsten Sindvald and Jakob Mygind contribute major melodic and improvisational content to "Artificial Joy." Taylor's inner jazzman also seems to keep the prog and rock influences in check, guaranteeing that his music's intrinsically sly humor always shines through.

Taylor's music bounces around quite a bit, stylistically, throughout "Artificial Joy." The CD's opener, 'Work' is typical - a dark, foreboding chord progression is maintained by Taylor's various keyboards as the tune twists and turns through several rhythmic and textural variations. The title track is a bouncy anthem with massive rocking slabs of Finn Olafsson's lead guitar and Taylor's surging Hammond organ alternating with slightly mellower, almost-funky sections featuring Mygind's burry, Brecker-ish tenor sax. Even though it starts off with over a minute of doom-laden electronics and backwards-masked effects, 'Days Run Like Horses' is the most fusion-y thing Taylor's recorded with this band in years, and features an uncharacteristically long, electronically-enhanced tenor sax solo. The lovely, ballad-like beginning to 'Laughter' gives absolutely no clue to the content of the rest of the tune - a macabre, open-ended spoken word piece that is the aural equivalent of a classic Hitchcock movie. Taylor's trademark tuneful, hooky prog-rock dominates on 'Atmosfear' and 'Telephone,' while 'Fame' has a pervasively dark, almost Gothic, feel to it. The latter tune also features some particularly outstanding guitar work by Mercyful Fate axe-man Michael Denner. All in all, "Artificial Joy" is yet another strong and stimulating recording from Taylor's Universe.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Taylor's Universe
  • CD Title: Artificial Joy
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: Marvel of Beauty Records
  • Tracks: Work, Artificial Joy, Days Run Like Horses, Atmosfear, Laughter, Telephone, Fame
  • Musicians: Jakob Mygind (saxophones), Carsten Sindvald (clarinet, saxophones), Finn Olafsson (electric & acoustic guitars), Michael Denner (electric guitar), Robin Taylor (keyboards, electric guitar, percussion, tapes, glockenspiel, radio, effects, treatments), Flemmng Muus Tranberg (fretless bass guitar), Klaus Thrane (drums), Louise Nipper (voice)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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