Tangent Reviews

Tangent Reviews (7)

The Whiskey Soda Review

Andy Tillison hat einen Hals. Nach dem launigen, luftigen Vorgänger gibt's auf dem neuen The Tangent-Werk "The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery" vornehmlich düster-melancholischen Stoff mit klar politischen, angepissten und bisweilen schwarzhumorigen Texten, die relativ klar machen, was Andy von der derzeitigen politischen Entwicklung speziell in seinem Heimatland hält.

Musikalisch bewegen sich The Tangent natürlich weiterhin im Spannungsfeld zwischen eklektischem Prog und - wohl auch dank Bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic) - jazzigem Canterbury-Feeling, also, irgendwo zwischen Yes, Van Der Graaf Generator, Roger Waters, Caravan und Soft Machine, abgeschmeckt mit allem, was Andy zwischen die Finger kommt. Das wären diesmal beispielsweise waschechte Metal-Shreddingsoli von Luke Maschin, weibliche Gesangsharmonien, Punk-Riffs, DJing, Spoken Word-Passagen und Zappaeske Brüche. Der Opener 'Two Rope Swings' ist dabei mit sechseinhalb Minuten Spielzeit der einzige "kurze" Song - der zweitkürzeste ist bereits das zwölfminütige Instrumental 'Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)'. Der Quasi-Titelsong 'Slow Rust' läuft 22:32 Minuten, 'The Sad Story Of Lead and Astatine' exakt 16 und das vorab veröffentlichte 'A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road' 17:31 Minuten - also definitiv keine leichte Kost. Im Gegensatz zu manch' anderer Band, die kürzlich ein politisch motiviertes Album voller Longtracks veröffentlicht hat, wirkt aber hier nichts erzwungen oder gar predigerisch. Dank Tillisons engagierten, unverklausulierten Lyrics und seiner sympathischen Nicht-Stimme, beides irgendwo zwischen Roger Waters, Bob Geldof und einer Prise frühem Dylan behält die Scheibe auch in den abgefahrensten Momenten noch eine angenehme Bodenhaftung und kommt durchaus mit einer Prise Humor und enormem Spielwitz um die Ecke. Der Höhepunkt dabei ist 'A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road', bei dem die Musik und der vor Sarkasmus triefende Text eine perfekte Einheit abgeben und sogar - trotz der Komplexität der Komposition - so etwas wie Eingängigkeit entwickeln - auch wenn zartbesaitete Gemüter ob dieser Behauptung ungläubig den Kopf schütteln werden.

Konnte man "A Spark In The Aether" durchaus zu Recht vorwerfen, etwas zu entspannt zu klingen, begeben sich The Tangent mit ihrem aktuellen Album eher wieder in die experimentierfreudigen Gefilde des Bandhighlights "Not As Good As The Book", wenn auch, wie erwähnt, deutlich jazziger. Eines der bisherigen Jahreshighlights im Progrock und mit 'A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road' liefern Andy und Co. den bisherigen Longtrack des Jahres ab. Abgerundet von einem gewohnt eigenwilligen und sehenswerten Comic-Artwork kann man also absolute Kaufempfehlung aussprechen.

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The Echoes & Dust's Review

“The world changed. Not the band.” On their ninth studio album, The Tangent cites Roger Waters’ ability to communicate ideas about world affairs through progressive rock music. Admiring Pink Floyd’s Final Cut and Water’s Amused to Death, The Tangent remark how such music does not challenge the zeitgeist. However, with their new release, the band are engaged in political commentary by focussing on the plight of refugees and their treatment by the Western media. They also draw parallels between the construction of walls and borders with friendships. Whether geopolitics or a parable about life, The Tangent have used their new album as an expression of thought that all may relate to.

The line-up again features Andy Tillison on keyboards, vocals, and a debut on drums, Jonas Reingold on bass, Luke Machin on guitars and vocals and Theo Travis on saxophone and flute. Marie-Eve de Gaultier’s inclusion completes the line-up, playing the keys and adding further vocals. Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley and DJ/producer Matt Farrow also have guest appearances. The album is produced by Machin, whilst DC Comics’ Mark Buckingham provided the artwork.

The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery takes an impressive hour and fifteen minutes to listen to from top to bottom; as such, it is not music for a casual listener. As with most classic progressive releases, this album has to be absorbed completely, and the song lengths alone prohibit listening to snippets only.

‘Two Rope Swings’, the shortest song by some length, opens the album with a dramatic piano and vocal introduction. Before the midway the mark the full band begins to enter into majestic instrumental joy. Some may class this as an overture of sorts, as it demonstrates several elements that the remainder of the album explores more fully.

‘Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)’ is a well-constructed instrumental song and with several different layers and recurring motifs, it demonstrates the virtuoso ability of the group but manages to convey decent melodies, without the necessity of a familiar vocal pattern. As a result, it is clear that The Tangent’s strength lies in their instrumental construction.

‘Slow Rust’ shows, however, that in the sections where both Tillison and de Gaultier sing in unison, the songs are immediately lifted lyrically. One criticism of progressive rock music is often the vocals, and when the instrumental sections are as complex as they are here, it can be hard for the vocals to sometimes be warranted. Generally, The Tangent manage to make the vocal sections interesting and relevant enough to be included, though some of the more descriptive verses could have some work.

The aforementioned ‘Slow Rust’ is the longest song on the album, at 22 minutes, and is the song with the most distinct passages of music. ‘The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine’ slows the pace slightly, introducing more jazz elements in the instrumentation. Nonetheless, the song continues to build on itself, as is often the case, in a style not unlike a jam; all the instruments seemingly bouncing off each other, improving each passage. The call and response section halfway through really adds an organic element to the song before hurtling back into the manic keyboard and guitar riffs, and then a jazz drum solo. Ambitious as ever.

‘A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road’ closes the album and it does not relent on the intricacy or intensity of its predecessors. With the use of profanity, it feels as though this song may carry an additional angst in its lyrics. In the closing sections, there are famous classical motifs, and hard rock riffs thrown in alongside woodwind instruments; effectively if anyone asked “what is progressive rock?” you would show them this snippet.

Through their extensive discography and fourteen-year lifespan, The Tangent believe they are ‘Re-Purposing Progressive Music.’ There is certainly a more modern sound to this record, but the traditions of classic progressive rock are certainly prevalent; arguably fitting in with the theme of re-purposing. Despite its great melodies, it does take endurance to listen to, but in the end, that is the reward of it. There are fantastic instrumental passages, and lyrics that, whilst may not be overly thought-provoking, certainly provide apt commentary.

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The PROGMIND Review

I imagine that something slippery and difficult to nail down is an apt description of Andy Tillison’s vision for The Tangent, a project that has had a perpetually evolving lineup since its inception in 2002.  In fact, Tillison himself is the only member to have been on all the recordings and has written the majority of the band’s material over its 15 year history.  The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery, the band’s 9th studio release, features the return of fellow Tangent founding member, bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic), in addition to Theo Travis (sax, flutes), Luke Machin (guitars, vox), and Marie-Eve de Gaultier of Maschine (keys, vox).  Tillison, an accomplished drummer of nearly three decades, utilized guest and session drummers on the previous eight Tangent studio releases, but this time chose to occupy the throne himself for Slow Rust’s percussion.

In an unpublished interview I did with Jonas regarding Karmakanic’s 2016 release, DOT, he audaciously (and affectionately) referred to Andy as “this punk from Northern England,” which has shaped my enduring impression of Tillison: an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, writer, composer, and thinker.  Sadly, the last Tangent record I really locked into was 2011’s Comm, so I’ve been a little behind on the project, but Slow Rust – Tillison’s first release since his sudden heart attack, following the Tangent’s 2015 release, A Spark in the Aether – was a fantastic re-introduction to an act for which I’ve always had an affectionate ear.

The album’s packaging features stellar artwork from Marvel / DC Comics artist Mark Buckingham. The sleeve is conceptually based on the music it contains: a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a derailed train crumbling beneath the years, and a trio of figures – an adult and two children – treading the path of broken rails, perhaps recounting the story of mankind’s descent into destruction.  The album’s alternate title, Where do we draw the line now?, is a question humanity must ask itself in the present, before the world becomes so devolved that it is forced to rebuild from such ashes as the album envisions.

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Although Slow Rust deals in large political themes – Tillison specifically cites the current political climate of the UK as the album’s inspiration, focusing lyrically on refugee crises in war-torn regions and biased, obscure press coverage on the issue – the album does so with an intimate, personal focus on homes, individuals, and neighborhoods.  While the album laments global divisiveness, from political affiliation to social classes to all “binary choices,” it does so by examining broken relationships and bitter memories, glimpsing the big picture through individual lives.

The reflective, balladic piano of “Two Rope Swings” renders the opening piece deeply nostalgic, looking back to childhood innocence while also acknowledging the destructive influences of adulthood downward on youth.  This powerful composition employs some particularly gorgeous vocal arrangements, as well as nuanced guitar/synth orchestration.  “Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)” – Slow Rust’s first epic-length and instrumental track – kicks off with rousing, interwoven synth and guitar leads in alternating 4/4 and 7/8.  Reingold’s driving bass solidifies the up-tempo groove, then implements a strong counterpoint to a gentle piano insert.  This track is reminiscent of material by The Flower Kings, or perhaps even Joe Satriani’s solo material, from its hugely orchestral moments to its dynamic variation to its guitar and synth leads in soaring balladic form.

Built on organs and plodding funk, Slow Rust’s title track stretches to nearly twenty-three minutes in length.  The track’s enormous scope moves through several recurring movements: funk groove refrains, dirty 4/4 rock inserts, and an internal bridge with pastoral folk with Latin influence.  The tracks concluding moments fade into ethereal swells of guitar and Moog.  Another huge composition, “The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine” crosses the 16-minute threshold.  Commencing as a piano ballad in varied meter with fretless bass accompaniment, the track moves into jazz feel and instrumentation, before a horns section in 5/4 and a rich guitar breakdown in free time.  Restless bass lead brings back a brief 4/4 section reminiscent of Zappa orchestrations, flutes and glockenspiel accompanied by bass and guitars, before double-timing for synth and guitar solos – all around a central, recurring riff.  “Lead and Astatine” also features Tillison’s first ever drum solo on a studio release, gorgeously accented by synth pads.  Probably my overall favorite track on the album, this tune does so many cool things with vocal arrangements, bass compliments, and overall technical performance.

Clocking in at seventeen minutes, “A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road” seems to encapsulate many of the album’s larger themes into one composition.  The song opens with string pads and flutes, providing a cinematic backdrop for Tillison’s spoken world storytelling, before exploding into uptempo guitars.  I particularly enjoy the flute, saxophone, bass, and guitar interactions around the 4:00-minute-mark.  The composition concludes much as it began: gently, reflectively.  The album’s final tune, “Basildonxit,” feels all too brief after the monster tunes that precede it.  Teasing a techno-pop beat at its intro, this punctuation mark ends Slow Rust with an atmospheric, instrumental groove that highlights every instrument in the band’s arsenal and brings the album to an uptempo conclusion.

The Tangent’s material has always been mature, but Slow Rust is a milemarker in the project’s writing development.  Each piece is wonderfully crafted, with each instrument given specific articulation, so that the entire album feels orchestral – not in terms of a genre or instrumentation, but in terms of its structure.  Tillison’s writing lends itself to versatility in dynamics, and also gives plenty of space to properly feature each instrument, never stepping on toes, and never forcing a new sound simply for the sake of being different.  This is an album for investing both money and time: it grows and expands with each listen.

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Album review : The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery

When Andy Tillison, leader and founding member of the Prog Rock ensemble The Tangent, first started putting together material for his 2003 debut “The Music That Died Alone”, little did he know that what started simply as a “one-off” project would evolve into one of the most unique-sounding and technically-impressive groups ever to come out of the British Isles.

It was through sheer hard work and the constant flow of top quality albums that The Tangent managed to make a name for themselves in the ever-increasing Prog Rock word – albums such as this year’s “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery”.

My introduction to the band took place in 2011 via the amazing “COMM” and I am happy to report that the same things that amazed me in Tillison’s music back then continue to do so in the year 2017: a unique approach to progressive song-writing, one whose main focus is to convey messages of strong political/social value through a musical medium that simply refuses to sacrifice melody on the altar of technical dexterity.

What this achieves is making the music on offer accessible to the ‘untrained ear’ (note: an amazing feat considering the fact that the average duration of a Tangent song is fifteen minutes long) while allowing the more seasoned fans to enjoy top quality performances from some of the most technically gifted musicians this genre has to offer.

While the melody-driven opener “Two Rope Swings” contains enough evidence to support my argument with regards the musical direction/focus of this impressive album, no composition presents the band’s philosophy best that the twelve minute opus “Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)”.

It is a very difficult thing indeed to have a long piece of music convey a certain theme without vocals/lyrics lending a helping hand but this 70s-influenced Prog Jazz monster has managed to achieve exactly that through an intelligent cross-pollination of rhythms and melodies that may not be unique to but most certainly typical of this band’s approach to musical composition.

“Slow Rust” is a protest song with strong funk influences, courtesy of bassist-extraordinaire Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic) and paves the way perfectly for the sixteen minute “The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine” – a composition which allows all band members to flex their technical muscles.

Tillison certainly saved the best for last as “A Few Steps Towards the Wrong Road” combines elements from all the previous compositions on offer while featuring excellent performances by guitar wizard Luke Machin and Marie-Eve de Gautier – a singer/vocalist whose supporting themes were integral in helping the album convey high levels of emotional intensity to the listener.

Every time I contemplate the reasons that make me love Rock music so much and why I have been its avid fan for more than three decades, the answer I give myself has always been the same: because, together with classical, it is the only type of music as far as I am concerned, that provides entertainment and spiritual stimulation in equal measure.

Is “The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery” an album that fills that criteria? Most certainly!

Get yourself a copy, sit back, close your eyes and allow Andy Tillison to take you on the most wonderful of musical journeys available so far this year – you will not regret it, I promise! 

****1/2

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