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The Mystery of Gorthon

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I cannot write an extensive an exposition of the background, history and context of this piece, because you see, no one knows that much about it. What is known is that Robert Taylor is a starkly unique finger style guitarist and composer, who released an album in 2004 called “Tetraspace” and another album, “Rabid Petting Zoo,” in 2006 (many of the same songs are on both albums).

In 2006 he recorded some videos of himself at home; three song to be precise. In all of them he is wearing the same brown suit that looks like it's out of the late seventies, with those inexplicable Christmas lights in the background, in front of what looks like a closet door. So if you pause the video just before it begins, you're basically preparing yourself to cringe at what must be some god-awful amateur cover.

Then within seconds -- and never looking at the camera -- he begins playing, and suddenly the world goes pear-shaped.

It's absolutely astounding; what a gorgeous idiosyncratic melody!

It sounds a bit baroque; the opening has a stilted formality, and the strange chords with the rhythmic contrast of the strumming bass string against the bright finger picking of the high strings is hypnotic. It's a bit romantic; a bit Cyrillic even in its oddity. Most beautifully, the over effect is so melancholic and intricate yet intimate… as a composition alone it's specular; the time changes and chord choices and resonances, to say nothing of the playing.

Notice how he's playing a steel string guitar finger picking style. Unlike Paco de la Lucia, who was fingerpicking on nylon, and John McLaughlin, who was using a pick on steel string, here you have the most technically challenging combinations, which result in that unmistakably complex, rich, resonant and super bright, clear sound. Further watch, especially later in the piece, his left hand forming the chords. It's almost animatronic. The economy of motion is complete: no wasted movement, his hand floats and you barely see his fingers flex at all, yet he's bending notes and pulling flawless slides on this heavy steel string guitar and it almost looks fake. His touch is so light and just perfect! I can't take my eyes off that left hand, which is odd because you usually watch the right hand with a finger picking style player. And through the song he shuffles through all these techniques and tricks but all are employed within the services of the song, with nothing extraneous. It still blows me away every time I see it. And there's no news of this guy!

Robert Taylor is a common name, so he is hard to find. In the comments of the video one guy says he's talked to him as an employee at a music store; another guy in the comments says he went crazy and broke his guitar. Something about that robotic left arm/hand, the intricacy of the composition, the flawless execution, contrasted with the total lack of showmanship or production value of his wardrobe, his haircut

“yes, I'd like the Frankenstein's monster please,”

the hard avoidance of the camera the video reveals, speaks to me that his guy is brilliant but might have some issue that frustrated his undeniable talent. Maybe not. That's assuming a lot. All that's clear is that no new music has come from him, at least not online since 2006, which is quite a shame and something I hope changes at some point or other. Hey, the clip could still go viral someday if enough folks with good taste share it! Or maybe someone will kickstart a documentary in a decade or something. It's an interesting time to be alive, don't lose hope Robert Taylor!

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