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!