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The Tangent - COMM CD (album) cover


The Tangent

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4 stars Gosh !! A new The Tangent album..... already ? I have yet to catch up with their previous album Down And Out In Paris And London, which was the follow up to the excellent Not As Good As The Book album. Got to think of it, I need to review the rest of their albums too.

Comm is the newest offering from one of the most important and relevant British prog rock acts of today. Andy Tillison has found the right formula on the The Tangent albums. Comm is not a major deviation from this formula, the fans of this band will be assured to hear. But Comm is still a slight deviation.

The Tangent has had their moment of frivolous joy on their albums. It seems like the global market has caught up with The Tangent on Comm. The recession, stupid. The Comm therefore comes across as a much more reflective and melancholic album than the usual The Tangent fare. Hence, I have had problems really getting into this album. Andy Tillison uses a lot of imagery to describe the current situation. Or is it me reading a song like Titanic Calls Carpathia ? A song about a sinking cruise liner which has hit an iceberg and is calling another ship for help ? If that is not a picture of the current lives for many up and down Britain which is seeing their income barely covering the living expenses, I do not know what. That is how I read the lyrics sung by Andy.

A lot of his lyrics on this album is very relevant to our situation today. Either he agrees with it or not. I think a lot of those who listen to this album will agree with this. Hence, this is not an uplifting album. If you want a make-believe lift these days, watch X Factor instead. The lyrics are excellent on Comm, btw.

That's the lyrics sorted out, then.

Music wise, The Tangent is in full flow. What attracted me to this band in the first place is what is shining more and more through their music. Namely their strong Canterbury scene influences. In my ears, this band is more or less a Caravan'esque band. Not copycats by any means. But you find the same playful, intelligent approach to music in The Tangent as you find in most Canterbury bands. Even in Soft Machine. In other words; the songs/epics on Comm is full of intelligent details and melody lines.

Not everything on Comm is fantastic. The strongest song, make that epic, is Titanic Calls Carpathia by miles. A very somber, but still a superb epic for our time. The other epic The Wiki Man is also superb. There is three shorter songs inbetween these two epics. Shoot Them Down is a great, sad song. But neither The Mind's Eye or Tech Support Guy (Andy's daytime job ??) will figure in The Tangent's hall of fame.

In short, I find this a great album full of interesting details. Fans of this band, and I probably have to include myself here although I am pretty neutral (but still a human being), can safely order this album. It is a great album which will cement this hard gigging and touring band's position in the scene. It is also a very current album about our time. Hence, it is a great album.

4 stars

Report this review (#529777)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars 'COMM' makes an appearance as their 6th studio effort by now, a themed album related to communication issues in any way. This includes extended epics again, two on this occasion, both divided in six parts. As usual mastermind Andy Tillison pulls the strings like a wizard due to his varied keyboard work and electronica adds. I was completely blown away by their heavily canterbury styled debut 'The Music That Died Alone' some years ago, but lost relationship after that anyhow ... at least when it comes to the following studio output. Although they are faithful to this roots here basically, it all sounds more edgy I would say. As for the visual aspect the cover artwork marks a return to the partnership with Belarussian artist Ed Unitsky.

Is there any album existing without changes concerning the line up? - thus promising young guitarist Luke Machin makes his studio debut; he is said to have taken fans by storm at gigs around Europe in the past months. Hope to find a possibility eventually, saw them in 2008 featuring Jonas Reingold and Krister Jonsson for the last time. And while thinking about the band's perpetual spirit ... all members are involved when it comes to the song writing process what I've heard, this possibly has a large share. Now it's official that Jonathan Barrett had to quit for private reasons - too bad - hopefully no serious problem for him as well as Andy & Co - just roll the dice again.

And therefore Barrett - whether intended or not - probably represents The Wiki Man with his expressive bass, fast pace ... quick update ... surely not the end though and not necessarily something to add to the negative side of life. Oh, I can remember this electronic noise at the very start (and eventually in between), freely adapted from a fax machine ... or acoustic coupler (those were the days). The song is containing a great deal of turns with a symphonic orientation. Hohhhh .. I love this boyant jazzy/groovy interlude after seven minutes where Theo Travis already gets a chance. From sharp riffs to melancholic acoustic guitar - Luke offers a great bandwith alongside with Andy on synth and organ.

The Mind's Eye follows as THE challenge, the band frankly offers a cornucopia of inspirations within eight minutes. Vocals sound Peter Hammill related somehow, I also hear an ELP adapted virtuoso organ occasionally, and decorated with a Holdsworth reminiscent fusion guitar could it be that Miles Davis is jamming with them? Can't imagine what is intended with Shoot Them Down later - a standard rock ballad with less prog attitude - but the Tech Support Guy Luke Machin shines shortly afterwards due to his excellent rhythm and solo guitar appearance.

Regarding the communication topic they've chosen an ambitious way with the song title Titanic Calls Carpathia in the end, when pointing to this inconceivable incident which happened in 1912. So there is a long cinematic intro to state - clearly provided with some dramaturgy. Mechanical drums compete with a lively bass and metal infected guitar until they drift into the main chorus for the first time. Sounds unusual first - it definitely took several attempts to become accessible to this song and to realize all the nuances, Nick Rickwood's fine drum work for example. Barret's compelling funky bass is the driving force during another wonderful grooving part in between.

THE TANGENT are making a reliable journey including several prog sentiments and throughout different decades. 'COMM' is a thoroughly solid album on a sophisticated level, where the vocals are not the strongest point, whosoever has a turn. Lyrically as well as music wise the motif is well implemented. Andy Tillison somehow dominates the album with his keyboard skills, Luke Machin's contributions enhance the overall impression too. So all in all I come to the conclusion that this is an excellent recommendation - it only remains for me to add that the limited special edition comprises two bonus tracks, where especially the announced 'Watcher Of The Skies' cover has caused some rumours about a mysterious Peter Gabriel/Yes collaboration.

Report this review (#532046)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I always look forward to a new release from THE TANGENT but the first couple of listens were different from what i've had with this band in the past. I don't know how to explain it except to say that "Comm" came off sounding like an Andy Tillison solo album for me. Those thoughts have since past after many listens.The other thing that was different for me was the first track called "The Wiki Man". It reminded me too much instrumentally of early THE FLOWER KINGS and SPOCK'S BEARD with that epic and dense sound. Now it's not that I don't like that style but I guess I like my THE TANGENT sounding like THE TANGENT which the rest of the album does by the way. Oh and the rest of the album is some of the best new music I have heard this year. Incredible stuff.

"The Wiki Man" is the over 20 minute opener that i've already touched on. The keys and sound build quickly until it's full. Vocals before 3 minutes as it settles back but the sound will continue to rise and fall. It does calm right down before 10 minutes with sparse keys. We get reserved vocals around 11 1/2 minutes then it kicks back in after 14 1/2 minutes. A good beat with vocals leads before 17 minutes. "The Mind's Eye" is such a cool tune. The drums, vocals and keyboards standout and i like the vocal style. Theo Travis adds both flute and sax on this one and we get mellotron late.

"Shoot Them Down" is a touching song lyrically. It's pastoral to start as reserved vocals join in. Guitar and drums after 2 minutes then flute. Atmosphere before 4 minutes then the chorus kicks in as the guitar solos over top. "Tech Support Guy" is classic TANGENT with Andy's story telling and humour. Some excellent instrumental work as usual. Check it out 4 minutes in especially the fuzzed out keys. Very Canterbury-like. "Titanic Calls Carpathia" opens with atmosphere and flute then it starts to build around 3 minutes. It settles as vocals arrive after 4 minutes. It turns fuller a minute later on the chorus then settles back as contrasts continue. A change before 7 1/2 minutes with sampled words, a beat and sax, then it turns heavier with vocals. Then we're back to normal again. Some nice piano 12 minutes in then guitar.

I think those last four tracks are some of THE TANGENTS best work. Easily 4 stars.

Report this review (#557506)
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Andy Tillison and company have really hit a home run with COMM, the fifth full-length offering from The Tangent. I've never been the biggest fan of this multi-national prog outfit from previous memory, but that must mean that I've either been extremely ignorant in the past or this album absolutely outdoes anything in their backcatalog - whatever the case, there's no question in my mind that COMM is an absolutely killer prog rock album and one of the year's best for sure. Epic compositions, complex arrangements, and memorable hooks are all found in abundance on COMM; this is the sort of album that every symphonic prog fan longs to hear. Whether or not you've been a fan of previous works from The Tangent, COMM is a near-essential purchase for all progressive rock listeners.

The Tangent sport a sound that is distinctly their own on COMM, while still wearing quite a few distinct influences on their sleeves. The most obvious points of reference here are probably Yes, Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, and Beardfish, but The Tangent also have an additional jazz tendency that sets them far apart from sounding like a "clone" band of any sort. This still isn't all that unique by modern symphonic prog standards, yet that seems like a minute complaint when the music is this top-notch. It's pretty safe to say that modern prog rock does not get much better than this.

Andy Tillison's keyboard palette of Hammond organs, moogs, and the like is usually the driving force of the music, and I simply can't get enough of his keyboard playing here. What a fantastic musician! His vocals are a bit more of an acquired taste, but I happen to love his powerful and distinct singing style. Luke Machin's guitar playing is also pretty phenomenal; he delivers a few really great solos on COMM. Theo Travis adds a nice touch with his flute and saxophone playing, and even though I wish he could've been a slightly more integral part of a few songs, he does what he does spectacularly. The rhythm section of Jonathan Barrett (bass) and Nick Rickwood (drums) is also great; both of these guys lay down plenty of complex and intricate foundations for most of the tracks.

COMM consists of only five tracks that add up to nearly an hour in length. I'm a bit glad that The Tangent didn't decide to fill up the whole CD with useless filler - every second of COMM is quality material, and it never overstays its welcome. The powerful, twenty- minute "The Wiki Man" opens the album with a bang, and is probably my favorite track of the album. "Titanic Calls Carpathia" is the other epic here and it is every bit as excellent as the aforementioned track. The three other songs are all a bit shorter, but I also really like all of them. "Tech Support Guy" is my favorite of the shorter songs - I especially dig the quirky and witty lyrics about how frustrating being a technical support worker for a company can be.

Even though COMM may not be the most revolutionary prog rock album in recent memory, this is an absolutely terrific observation. A flawless execution in terms of musicianship and production, excellent songwriting, and challenging instrumental portions all make this an album that should be in every symphonic prog fan's collection. COMM was a very pleasant surprise for me, and I will be sure to revisit The Tangent's earlier albums again in the near future. As far as this one is concerned, 4.5 stars are the least I can give. One of the year's best prog albums? I sure think so!

Report this review (#559388)
Posted Saturday, October 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An impressive album that represents many prog elements of the past ...

I have been amazed by the band since its debut album 'The Music That Died Alone' which blew me away at first spin - musically and impressed me with its CD artistic work by Ad Unitsky who in fact like the Roger Dean of today's progressive music. At first, I thought the band would just focus on its Canterbury development as its roots but as time went by I have observed that the band has successfully capitalized all great elements of past progressive music. Well yeah, you can find the elements of Van der Graaf (a lot), Yes (a lot), Genesis, ELP, King Crimson, Gentle Giant (even though a bit only) and many more. I do not say that they do not have their own roots because their music is basically a unique one that you may not be able to compare with any other progressive bands. Two thumbs up for The Tangent! Even though there are many elements of past prog music, nuance-wise, but the band has successfully pushed the envelop by presenting and packaging the music in a modern way with great sonic quality of production.

Andy Tillison as central act

As the band is truly multinational with its members coming from different nationalities, it's quite difficult to maintain its lineup - that's why the band has undergone many changes in its lineup with Andy Tillison as the only member who has been consistently with the band. In fact, right after the album was released the bass player Jonathan was leaving the band for his solo music career and personal reason (the loss of his father). I'm so happy having listened to the album when the young left-handed guitarist Luke contributes in this album. He is just an extraordinary guitarist and am so amazed with his skills. If he just play straight rock music, I may not so impressed with him but in this album where the music is totally prog to the bone he can provide great guitar work combining stunning guitar solo as well as rhythm or riffs styles. He's really great!

The album sounds like a concept album if you look at the titles of the track like 'The Wiki Man', 'Tech Support Guy', 'Titanic Calls Carpathia' even though in an interview with DPRP Andy admitted there was no such concept album in any release of The Tangent so far and they did not plan one in the future. But yes, he admitted that the central issue was about COMMunication as the thing that concerned Andy in most of the tracks in COMM album.

Musically, 'The Wiki Man' (20:14) that comprises six movements is really a great composition that wonderfully open this great album. It starts with sort of beeps in the 'fax machine' line followed with great symphonic style of music relying mostly on the keyboard solo with nice musical breaks having the fax machine beeps provide the fill during breaks. Luke's guitar solo starts right after the short musical opening with his unique style. The rest of the first part demonstrates great composition that shows dynamic drumming, inventive keyboards, stunning guitar work and dynamic bass playing. The first part already impressed me and right away I shouted to myself "This is IT! The music that I really love!". Next part is basically the vocal line in unique Andy Tillison way - it has become the band's trademark in terms of vocal line. I have to admit that Andy's vocal work is not superb but it does really fit with the music wonderfully. I repeat: "wonderfully"! I am not joking, while I am enjoying this opening track my mind fly back to the days when I first listened to Yes' 'Gates of Delirium', 'Close to The Edge'. Oh my God ...these guys really terrific! They are able to stimulate the great parts of past progressive music in their own way, in a modern sound technology. I say in their own way because there are parts with piano solo that remind me to jazz music followed with long sustained keyboard solo that reminds me to Rick Wakeman's solo in Close to The Edge or Patrick Moraz solo in Gates of Delirium. This epic 'The Wiki Man' to me is at par excellence as Yes' 'Gates of Delirium' - my all time favorite of Yes composition. The music of The Wiki Man is much more dynamic than Yes' Close To The Edge - that's why I tend to compare it with Gates of Delirium which has dynamic parts. Of course The Wiki Man has musical break as well and it is filled with great combination of vocal, acoustic guitar and piano. It's really a masterpiece composition! Bravo The Tangent! Even if the rest of the tracks are not good, this opening track represents the worth of buying the album, really! One thing that I really want more from this opening track: more guitar solo by Luke - it seems this opening track has spaces that actually he can fill ini more guitar solo and shreds.

'The Mind's Eye' (8:13) starts off with a choirs followed with music that moves in crescendo until it reaches certain tempo that is quite fast augmented with nice guitar rhythm. This track is more song-rientated composition and it relies heavily on Andy's vocal line. There are parts that have breaks as well but mostly the track comprises dynamic music. It's an excellent composition. The next track 'Shoot Them Down' (6:45) is a mellow one and it's not something that I really like because the music is quite straight forward - less challenges for me to digest. But it's a good as filler having listened to two dynamic tracks previously. 'Tech Support Guy' (5:51) is another dynamic track with great flute work augmented beautifully with dynamic drumming and organ / keyboard work. The vocal line of Andy enters nicely while the music still provide the unique sound of The Tangent. The alto sax solo is also nice and it makes this track characterizes the music of The Tangent. I like the interlude part that provides great flute and keyboard / guitar works.

'Titanic Calls Carpathia' (16:31) is another epic shorter than The Wiki Man and it comprises also six movements. It starts off with an ambient style with flute providing the lead backed with silent keyboard work. The opening reminds me to the overture of orchestral music. The real music enters at approximately minute 3 with a nice drumming work. The vocal enters slowly, still in the silent mode. The overall mode of this track is basically moderate in tempo and less complex than The Wiki Man. However, this track provides great combination of skills from the musicians involved. The interlude part has musical riffs but still maintain the nature of The Tangent Music - it does not something like progressive metal. This epic concludes the album wonderfully. Titanic Calls Carpathia .....

Overall, this is an excellent addition to any prog music collection. For those who like how the traditional elements of prog music integrated into one cohesive whole with excellent audio quality plus some jazz music parts, this album is really the one you need to have. Keep on proggin' ...!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#560707)
Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars My only previous experience with The Tangent is 2009's Down and Out in Paris and London. While I found that album to be pretty enjoyable, it was not my favorite and it had a lot of flaws that held it back from being really great. 2011's COMM winds up being very similar to its predecessor, both in sound and structure, but simply does a lot of the same things better, which overall makes it a better package.

Just a passing glance at the track list and lineup can give you an idea of how similar The Tangent's latest two albums are. Both start off with an epic, play around with a few shorter songs, then close with a final long song. The musicians, while not strictly the same, remain mostly unchanged: the vocalist, keyboardist, saxophonist/flautist, and bassist all return, with a new guitarist and drummer. The sound of the music is pretty similar if you've ever heard it, but if not, it leans on the more symphonic side with some eclectic flourishes: lots of keyboards (new and old sounding) and guitars, with occasional sax and flute. The music is very lively, upbeat, and is generally really fun to listen to.

The concept of the album should be pretty evident from the name, cover, and times we live in. Themes covered by COMM delve into modern communication technology, social networking, and their results on society and how we act as humans. There's not a story at play here, but every song deals with these themes, and the commitment to the concept is great. Some of the first sounds you hear are dial-up tones (though the amount of people who know what that is grow fewer by the day), and they lyrics very explicitly mention Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and even PowerPoint. While the lyrics themselves are sometimes too literal for me to enjoy in a musical sense, I do appreciate the thought that went into them and the theme in general.

Just like Down and Out, the opening epic is the best track on COMM. It has the strongest melodies of the 5 songs, and the way The Tangent play around with them is truly a joy to hear. Within the 20 minutes of music, there's nearly always something familiar playing somewhere, whether it be a restatement of the main melody at the forefront, or using it in the harmony while a new theme is developed on top. None of the melodies are played out, and you rarely hear something played exactly the same way twice.

Luckily, the opener is not the only good song to be found here. The three songs in between the two epics don't reach the same heights, but are certainly fine pieces of music. The closer runs the most eclectic ground, and also contains the most interesting theme. If you don't know what the "Carpathia" is, I suggest you look it up, because it will give great meaning to that song. Overall, each song is well composed, and the lengths of each song and the entire album are right where they should be.

Unfortunately, the vocals, which were not my favorite part of the last album, are not much improved here. If, like me, you've never been a fan of Andy Tillison's voice, COMM won't change your mind about it, but at least the band read my review of their last album and has kept the music interesting during vocal sections. The vocal sections are far from my favorite on the album, but because the music doesn't drop out almost entirely like last time, I can find a lot of enjoyment in them.

COMM may be similar to Down and Out in Paris and London but it's simply better, and really enjoyable in its own right. A lot of the things I disliked about the last album are not present here, and there is a lot of great music to be found on top of that. The Tangent's latest might not be without flaw or at the top of the 2011 charts, but it is certainly worth a look.

Report this review (#602517)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I don't write a lot of reviews, but wanted to say some things about this album. I've come later to The Tangent and have mixed feelings about them and this album in particular. I've had it now for many months and given it a bunch of listens and still come to the same conclusion. Musically, I think this is an excellent album, well crafted songs with very interesting arrangements, themes, and structure, The concept of the album is also very interesting. The musicianship is excellent and the production spot on. The big problem I have with this album is the vocals. I find them a big put-off. Andy Tillison is not a good singer in my opinion and his weakness brings the whole album down a notch. There are clear points throughout the disk where he is simply off-key. Even when he is on key the quality of his voice just doesn't do it for me. It's unfortunate because aside from this it is a terrific recording. Musically this is a four star effort, but because of the vocals I can only give it a 3.
Report this review (#818002)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The Tangent is a excellent prog band in my opinion but first time I lived disappointment in this album because of Vocals! Albums music are very nice as always but when vocal start I want to stop the music. Very interesting but how they can find this guy for vocals, I can not understand... I can give 4 stars for this album minimum but I want to give 3 stars only because of vocals. If you can not think vocals, a very nice concept album. Actually Tangent' all albums are near perfect. I can highly recommend Tangent for every prog fans... 4 stars... because of vocals 3 stars
Report this review (#1064693)
Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars First of a new Tangent era, with some archetypical Tangent epics.

This Tangent album marks a new era for the band, one we might call the Luke Machin era (who joins on electric guitar). The first album not to feature Guy Manning, by this time the only original member left is Andy Tillison himself. Bassist Jonathan Barrett would leave after this album too, and neither drummers Nick Redwood (who played on the album), nor Tony Latham (who was supposed to become a permanent member), would play on any other Tangent albums. These line-up changes alone might quality the Tangent as a prog band! Actually, Theo Travis is on this album too, and I consider him to be a core member, so it is not just Tillison. With the addition of Machin on guitar, the Tangent once again has a virtuoso guitarist, and Luke is truly excellent. His solos on the album are all top notch - very fluid, fast, and musical. Travis of course is also excellent, as is Tillison himself, so the solo sections on this album are all highly satisfying (the rhythm section is good too, no issues, although nothing as stellar as when Jonas Reingold is on bass grooving along with one of the Swedish drummers who have played in the band). Yet, despite all the changes, this album feels once again like a band album. It has a cohesive sound too.

Most of the music here is excellent, and expertly recorded and performed. The opening and closing tracks, both epics, are the clear highlights. The opener, 20-min 'The Wiki Man', talks about the evolution of the internet and how dependent on it our identities are, and does so in a nice direct way. Nice lyrics that hit home, and the music is excellent, with lots of great changes and solos. The 16-min closing track, "Titanic calls Carpathia", is about the first radio call and the importance of the development of communications technology since that time (both its benefits and its darker sides) - another excellent piece, even better than the opening track. Together these two songs add up to 37 minutes. The three remaining pieces, in comparison, are filler. Of these it is the short (6-min) "Tech Support Guy" that is musically most interesting. "Shoot them down" is a ballad written and sung by Jonathan Barrett - fairly decent, and a little different from the usual Tillison song, but nothing to write home about. I am not so keen on the main themes in the 8-min "The Mind's Eye", meanwhile, but the middle instrumental section is fantastic. There are also two bonus tracks on the album, including a cover of "Watcher of the Skies" and an early demo that sounds more like Rush, but neither is very particularly interesting, and I generally ignore them (and because they are 'bonus' tracks, I have not included them in my rating of the album).

COMM contains many of those characteristics that I think suit the Tangent well. Not only well-written complex music, but I think Tillison's insights about, and critiques of, the impact of the internet and communication tech is his primary lyrical strength and his main original contribution to the world of rock. When he is writing lyrics about this, they never seem pretentious, silly or sneering, but instead quite human and insightful. We identify with them, and they seem to suit his voice best (even when he is singing slightly out of tune, which is a common critique from other reviewers). The opening and closing epics on this album fit this pattern, and I would consider them sort-of archetypical of the 'Tangent sound'. They are definitely among the top 10 of Tangent epics, even if the filler between them is less interesting. Overall, I give this album 8.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to (low) 4 PA stars.

Report this review (#1870193)
Posted Sunday, January 28, 2018 | Review Permalink

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