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The Tangent - A Spark in the Aether - The Music That Died Alone, Volume Two CD (album) cover


The Tangent


Eclectic Prog

3.84 | 324 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

3 stars I have noticed a pattern with Tillison/ Tangent albums. The most inspired song writing (music and lyrics) arises when Tillison is presenting a social critique. Those are the moments where he seems to have the most fire in his belly. This album, however, is not one of these. Instead, these songs are largely nostalgic reflections memorizing good times with either music or film. The playing is, as always, excellent. The band here consists of many talented musicians. After a hiatus during 'Le Sacre du Travail', Luke Machin is back on guitar here, and he often steals the show (I split the Tangent into two phases - this album is in the Luke Machin phase - a massive talent). Theo Travis is here again, and excellent as usual. Jonas Reingold, I think, is one of the very best bass players around - so musical. And on this album Morgan Agren (from Kaipa) is on drums. So, there is a huge amount of talent here.

However, despite the album title, the fiery spark is a bit dampened in the writing department. The band does their best livening up the music, and Tillison puts in some excellent solos. But the songs are simply less inspired. Nothing is bad or off-putting, and indeed some of the music here is great. The longest epic "The Celluloid Road" is probably the main contribution that listeners will focus on. Loosely evoking a drive across the USA as reflected in both the history and geography of film in the country, the epic is actually constructed from a number of shorter but musically-related tunes. The culmination, and best of these shorter sub-sections, is where they reach San Francisco. This section is so good, they made it into a single (which makes it onto the album as a bonus 'radio edit'). Both danceable, fun, and yet still 'prog'. But that is only about 4 mins long, and the rest of this epic is up and down, not quite on the same level as other Tangent epics. Instead, my favourite songs on the album are the 9-minute "Clearing the Attic", which is the closest one gets on this album to Tillison's more personal statements from previous albums (ala "A Gap in the Night" etc), and the return (part two) of the title track "A Spark in the Aether" which is twice as long (8 mins) as part one of the same track which opens the album (4 mins). Part two of "Spark" contains a number of really great musical jazzy passages, including some awesomely beautiful bass playing by Reingold. Those are the highlights for me. The rest does not stand up so well. "Codpieces and Capes" is meant to be a nostalgic reminiscence of ostensibly-overblown 70s progressive rock shows and posturing, but with a similar message to (but very different music from) "The Sun in my Eyes" (from 'Place in the Queue'). The theme is "We've Got the Music!". But it doesn't work too well, and I just don't get the same sunny feeling from this one. It is not just that the lyrics seem uninspired; it isn't very musical either. Finally, there is a cover of sorts of Floyd's "Careful with that Axe, Eugene" on this album, but with the lyrics whispered as "Careful with that Sax, Eugene", followed by a screaming sax solo. This would otherwise be a great bonus track, but it doesn't really flow situated in the middle of the album where it is, and indeed seems to break whatever 'concept' there is tieing the tunes together. All in all, for me roughly half the music on this album is great. The rest, after many listens, I now skip over.

This album is worth having. It is not just for fans. It contains some very good musical tunes. But half of this album is less inspired, both musically and lyrically. Indeed, for me this is, on balance, the weakest overall album by The Tangent. So, I would recommend those who haven't heard them yet to start with other albums first. Overall, I give this 7.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, translates to 3 PA stars.

Walkscore | 3/5 |


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