Review: MFT's First 'EP in a Weekend,' feat. Christian Taylor 

****
Generation Elevators
EP in a Weekend Project
MFT

Musical Family Tree has released the first recording of its "EP in a Weekend" series, in which they select a local musician to go into the studio for one weekend - Friday through Sunday - to write and record four original songs for immediate release on MFT's website. The debut installment featured local singer-songwriter Christian Taylor, recording with Derek Johnson and Cole Nicholas; an arrangement they've dubbed Generation Elevators.

click to enlarge EP_IN_A_WEEKEND.jpg

Jon Rogers, editor of MFT, said for the first EP in a Weekend project they wanted to pick a local musician with an established presence in the area, but who doesn't record often. "We thought of Christian immediately because he's a great musician, an amazing songwriter, and he does a lot for the community, but he hasn't always been able to get into the studio and release records," said Rogers. Taylor has been a stalwart on the local music scene for nearly 20 years, regularly performing with solo and with his bands America Owns the Moon, Christian Taylor and Homeschool, and the Scene Elders.

Under the structure of the EP in a Weekend project, the selected musician is allowed to pick two other musicians to work with, and then they have the weekend to write and lay down the tracks in the studio. Whatever they've produced by the end of that time period - finished or not - goes up on MFT's site. Generation Elevators' EP was recorded at Queen Size studios, with Andy Fry and Ben Bernthal at the controls. Local web design company Small Box sponsored the recording and Rogers said MFT is looking for new sponsors for future projects. The next EP in Weekend is slated to take place in July, but Rogers declined to divulge the name of the artist.

Those familiar with Christian Taylor's solo work will be surprised from the opening bars of "Chain of Islands," the first song on the EP Source Material. It's a sprawling, undulating piece of electronica, held together almost a little incongruously by a thumping beat. Taylor's voice echoes in the background, repeating various phrases such as "Build a pyramid, from the top down," while a sparse and ethereal guitar riff hovers over it all. It is trance-inducing, and a serious departure from Taylor's usual stripped-down folk style.

The middle two songs, "Upfall" and "Disillusioned (with this Illusion)," take on a more classic song structure and are the shortest of the four songs. "Upfall" feels like some kind of electronic power-punk collage, a hard-driving four-count bass drum rhythm and angular, buzzing guitar riffs offset by a pace shifts and disjointed, repeated lyrics. The drum machine beat and overlaid lyrics make this a pastiche of sounds that seems to represent new territory for Taylor, and that's precisely what makes this project worthwhile."Disillusioned" is the most the most pop-oriented track whose driving, power-pop energy and a simple straightforward chord progression make it the most rocking track of the project.

The EP's final track, "Reel to Reel," represents a return to the expanded, ethereal nature of the opening track "Chain of Islands." It's as if this EP is bookended by two trance-inducing songs, with two jarring works of modern art in the middle. This track is set on a heavy, punching drum beat that doesn't allow it to reach a genuinely ambient level, but it almost gets there with a twisting series of high-pitched guitar riffs hanging there in the atmosphere. If I had any complaint about this song, and the EP's overall sound, it's that the drums seem to occupy a little too much sonic space, stealing from the other elements of the music.

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