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The Tangent

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars I must say that it is not easy to describe the music of The Tangent because it is quite unique. Many of the songs open with a beautiful melancholy melody which is reprised throughout what tend to be long tracks, interspersed with up-tempo jazz rock and further enhanced by intelligent, poignant and sometimes humorous lyrics that are generally a comment on aspects of daily life. As a result the tracks are complex and require revisiting to be fully appreciated. Most of the tracks on The Tangent's latest album The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery follow this structure with two of the six tracks being instrumental. All six tracks are memorable and of high quality. Even if you don't follow the lyrics, it is difficult to ignore them because of the clarity of delivery and the messages they convey. So many of today's challenges are referenced, not directly as criticisms, more as issues that we should all be concerned about. And throughout the music is glorious. For me this is a truly remarkable album and is the only one so far this year to warrant five stars.
Report this review (#1766226)
Posted Wednesday, July 26, 2017 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
4 stars Back then the Canterbury homage 'The Music That Died Alone' hit me like lightning, I also thought 'COMM' to be another very recommended album, and now this one convinces right from the first listening session. When recovering from a heart attack in 2015 Andy Tillison's songwriting efforts understandably took a backseat for a while. But as somebody who's focussed on developing and playing sophisticated rock music as no other, he rebounded soon. And obviously felt challenged later on by the political development in Europe. Especially this Brexit affair, a quite exemplary result when some politicians, parties and even complete governments subtly and gradually are encouraging hate and nationalism.

How not to repeat yourself after so much prolific albums since 2002? Firstly, this is a very political album, A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road marks a strong statement due to his recitative. This may not meet everybody's taste. But at least music-wise it's definitely a top-notch result, and very jazz drenched stuff right here again. Furthermore he's effectually flirting with other styles on his albums, for example be it the excellent Pink Floyd oriented 'Aftereugene'. Alternatively, on this occasion, it's definitely Basildonxit, which opens very Lounge/2Step drenched. Well, and he surprisingly even goes the extra mile now when, for what reason ever, dealing with the percussion duties. I'm not sure, be it acoustic, electronic or via keys most likely. Presumably a little of each.

Apart from that Andy has some wellknown compagnions at his side, speaking of Theo Travis, Luke Machin and Jonas Reingold of course, my hero, when it comes to the bass guitar at least! As I'm not really fond of his work with the band Maschine, so much the more I adore Machin's contributions here, also being very present and virtuoso with a range from Gary Boyle to Santana and John Petrucci. If somebody is going to advertise a 2017 award for exceptional songwriting, here we have a strong aspirant waiting for. Another very personal statement, nothing to complain though, as this is always the fact, more or less. Groove, catchiness, complexity, sophistication, meaningfulness, experimentalism - all attributes will apply regarding this album. Is there any more of it?

Report this review (#1782015)
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Review originally published in


Since The Tangent's early days I've been fan of their music, they know how to create challenging music with lots of changes, instrumental and vocal passages, vertiginous moments and calm tracks, they also bring a rollercoaster of emotions that touches the symphonic, Canterbury an even heavy side of prog. Andy Tillison and co. are now back this 2017 with an extraordinary album that once again shows their inherent and endless talent, an ambitious 6-track release with 4 long epics and 2 short tracks that will make you have over an hour of great prog rock. I must say that I personally have a bit trouble with albums this long, I always prefer a length minus 50 minutes, but with The Tangent I can let that rule slip away.

The album opens with "Two Rope Swings" which has a delicate sound, sweet vocals and a beautiful piano. Little by little more instruments join, calm flute, acoustic guitar, soft bass and drums. The sound is really gentle, easy to dig and easy to make you feel comfortable. Then at minute 2:30 keyboards appear so does the symphonic sound, so you have to be prepared to start a great journey and leave The Tangent guide you. "Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)" is the first (and shortest, by the way) epic of the album. The musicians have nothing to prove; we all know they are amazing, so in every single minute of the song (and album) we will feel satisfied. When asked what progressive rock is, I could easily play a The Tangent song, this instrumental one might be a great example, due to its great passages, the changes in time and mood, the use of symphonic, jazzy and classical elements, and much more. The song runs so gentle that in a blink of an eye it has already finished. The Canterbury-esque essence is provided here at its best.

Man, what a long and amazing track "Slow Rust" is, Tillison, Reingold, Travis and co have done one hell of a track (and an album). Vocals return here in an incredible labyrinth of emotions, tricks and dungeons where our ears and soul will be trapped for over 20-minutes, and let me say that you will not wish to find the exit, you will happily accept the musical seclusion. Lush keyboards and great bass lines can be found here; it is like a TV series with its chapters, the music is changing and creating different passages that naturally match with its predecessor. There are no weak moments, of course there are ones I enjoy more but I cannot ask for more. "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine" continues with these examples of challenging compositions full of a cascade of changes, textures and nuances. The work of Travis here is beautiful and of course, Reingold always (but really, always) create the best bass lines for what the music needs.

"A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road" opens with a calm minute but then all of a sudden it explodes and becomes rockier and a bit heavier. The intensity increases and a sense of tension can be felt while a powerful symphonic sound surrounds us. As usual the song has different changes so we then listen to calm passages and minutes later it returns with more intensity. Great! The album finishes with "Basildonxit" which is the shortest composition here. As you can notice by my words, The Tangent has not let us down and I can actually say this this is my favorite release of their from this current decade, hands down. This last track is very different; it includes electronics sounds made by a DJ while keyboards work normally creating nuances. Then the symphonic explosion comes, strings, drums and keys work together in a wonderful work of art with some Floydian guitar, a jazzy funky sound and that great use of electronic background. A great way to finish a magnificent album!

The Tangent is of course, one of the bands I want to see the most on stage, and if everything goes normal, I would be able to do so next Progtoberfest at Chicago.

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#1790546)
Posted Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes, "Good, but non-essential". No, three stars rating doesn't mean the record is bad. This is a solid, professional record with excellent production and sound (bravo, Tangent!) and flawless musicianship from the crop of modern prog. As always, I especially love their jazzy moments and how those guys interplay with each other. But alas, half of the album isn't good. The first two tracks are very good, typical Tangent. 4.5 out of 5. "Slow Rust"... Disjointed "epic" with political lyrics.... It has its moments, but lets face it: how many good 20+ minutes epics did you hear? 3 our of 5 "The Sad Story Of Lead and Astatine" is what I love about this band: jazzy, breezy, airy and simply beautiful! 6 out of 5! "A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road" - oh, here it comes again: another one "political epic", now with spoken words and lyrics about migrants and Brexit. Again, it has its moments, but spoken words and loud "satirical" chorus about giving them money and power make the song a bit painful to listen. For me, at least. And in my opinion, the lyrics are simply banal. 2 out of 5 The Tangent would make an Excellent instrumental record! I hope some day they will do that! Alas, Andy's "angry" vocal and songwriting ambitions of writing "actual" songs pull this record down, just like most of their latest records. So, out of 73 minutes, you have 30 minutes of hardly listenable political "epics" and 33 minutes of very well-composed, superbly played and recorded prog with strong jazzy flavor.
Report this review (#1816204)
Posted Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars I did not see this one coming but I should have. THE TANGENT's previous album was the first one I gave less than 4 stars to but in the mean time Andy Tillison had a heart attack and I've said for years that tragedy or heart-break is the best thing to get the creative juices flowing in an artistic person. Should have seen this one coming. This is hands down the best THE TANGENT album I have heard to this point, and it's not close. What a lineup as well with Andy of course, Theo Travis on flute and sax, Luke Machin on lead guitar, Jonas Reingold who might be my favourite bass player, and Marie-Eve De Gaultier on keyboards and backing vocals. She basically has taken Sam's place I'd say and it's surprising how much her backing vocals add to the sound here. Everything is just perfect.

The cover art was done by Marvel/DC Comics illustrator Mark Buckingham and it's outstanding like everything else here. This is a political album of epic proportions and for the first time in my life I'm putting a spoiler alert on one track called "A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road" with it's shocking ending. I liked how THE TANGENT's first two albums came to mind at times here.

"Two Rope Swings" deals with the fate of wild animals in the 21st century lyrically. Piano, bass and laid back vocals to start along with female backing vocals. Flute and a beat join in after a minute as it slowly starts to build. It kicks in hard at 2 1/2 minutes. Huge bass lines here and Andy sings with passion. It settles back after 5 1/2 minutes with piano and reserved vocals.

"Doctor Livingston(I Presume)" is an absolute killer instrumental. It hits the ground running with prominent bass before a guitar solo arrives before a minute. So much going on though including organ and synths. It settles back before 2 minutes but kicks back in a minute later as contrasts continue. Sax around 3 1/2 minutes. Jazzy piano and drums a minute later followed by some massive bass lines and ripping guitar 5 minutes in. So good! Sounds like mellotron after 7 minutes then a calm with flute, atmosphere and more. it kicks in again around 9 1/2 minutes. Nice synth work a minute later.

"Slow Rust" is 22 1/2 minutes long and it deals with a lot of current political topics. Organ to start as laid back vocals join in with backing female vocals. A fuller sound with synths follows a minute in, drums too. The dual vocals continue followed by bass and electronics. Lots of atmosphere as well. The bass kills here. The chorus arrives around 3 minutes and later before 5 1/2 minutes with keys, bass and drums. Beautiful stuff. Love that guitar solo after 6 1/2 minutes. Vocals are back after 8 1/2 minutes with organ in this powerful section. Check out the driving rhythm section 10 1/2 minutes in. There's a "Roll The Bones"-like Rap section 12 minutes in. How blissful is the calm with flute, picked guitar and female vocal melodies. Love how Andy comes in vocally. It kicks in before 16 1/2 minutes with huge bass. Love the organ after 18minutes. The chorus is back after 20 minutes.

"The Sad Story Of Lead And Astatine" with "Astatine" being a radioactive chemical element. Sad vocals and piano to start. It picks up1 1/2 minutes in with flute in this jazzy section as the vocals become more alive. Backing female vocals a minute later then it turns more powerful 3 1/2 minutes in with that amazing bass. Sax joins in before 4 minutes as the vocals step aside. Organ too and check out that bass around 7 minutes. Oh my! Lots of atmosphere then it kicks in hard. Check out all those intricate sounds before 8 minutes. The tempo picks up making this even more mind boggling. Drum solo after 9 minutes and I like it. It settles back with organ, piano and vocals. There's such a feel good vibe to the chorus 11 1/2 minutes in. Check out the guitar and bass 14 1/2 minutes in.

"A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road" is where I have a spoiler alert. If your going to pick this album up don't even read this because my hair actually stood up when it was revealed late who this country was Andy is talking about. This song was brought about because of the refugee problems in the World these days, and Trump of course, and Brexit as many countries seem to fuelled these days by nationalism, greed and power. So Andy uses an example from the past but we don't know that until the end as I figured the country he was going at great lengths to describe was just a made up one. Instrumentally this is complex but also all over the place as it were but the narration from Andy was surprising throughout as it comes and goes to great affect. This is a 17 1/2 minute epic itself to close the album.

Basically the country here in question reminisces about their glorious past and concludes that immigrants have a lot to do with their decline. So they vote in a party who will deal with that particular problem among others. Like I said earlier Andy goes to great lengths to describe the feelings and history of this nation and the reasonings for a change. They want to be great again. Sound familiar USA? So the scene is set up for us to where this party is elected and after 12 minutes the emotion of that event is stunning to say the least. Andy's vocals that follow couldn't be more moving and emotional. We are then taken to the newly elected political party's first official meeting as they discuss the issues they have to deal with. It's haunting here as the new leader tells his cabinet ministers that the immigration problem is his main priority and he turns to one of his senior officials and looking over his reading glasses he says "I think this one(the immigration problem) is seriously important and as such I would like you to handle it" as he looked over to Heinrich Himmler. Himmler responds "Jawohl mein Fuhrer leave it with me".

This is jazzy and oh so proggy in several different ways. The lyrics really match the incredible musicianship here and it all makes this one of the best from 2017. It will be featured high on my list.

Report this review (#1817203)
Posted Saturday, October 28, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Poignant and Pointed.

Tillison wrote that after his heart attack he temporarily lost interest in music, and he even thought about wrapping up the band. But clearly inspiration struck, disturbed by the xenophobic politicking around the Brexit vote, and he again found his voice. This is one of the strongest and most poignant of the Tangent albums. Roger Waters has said that really all that matters about an album is whether it moves you, and in this album, the Tangent does this very well. It also happens to be an immensely musical album. It seems to me (and I said this in my review of the previous album too) that when Tillison is driven to write out of a concern for social justice, not only are the lyrics more original and inspired, but the music as well.

The band here is virtually the same as on the previous album (Tillison, Reingold, Travis and Machin - this continues the Luke Machin era), but with one exception. Morgen Agren (drummer for Kaipa, among others) does not appear. Yet, instead of finding another drummer for the album, Andy Tillison fills in on drums himself, and does an amazing job (!!). He had previously filled in on guitar on the album 'Down and Out in Paris and London' when they found themselves without a guitar player (before Luke Machin arrived). The drumming here - as you might guess given this is the Tangent - is difficult. Yet, Tillison pulls it off as if he were Agren - once again showing himself to be a really impressive multi-instrumentalist.

The music is really excellent through and through. It begins with song that is both emotional and intellectual at the same time, "Two Rope Swings", which compares the lives of, on the one hand, kids growing up in Britain, like Tillison, and on the other, those whose otherwise very similar dreams and needs take a very different direction in Africa. The song is wonderfully evocative, very human, yet at the same time a devastating critique of the trade and foreign policies that have meant deforestation, poverty and poaching in developing nations. The music is equally great. The second track ("Doctor Livingstone I Presume") is an extended instrumental, and one of the best-ever Tangent compositions. Luke Machin really shines on this track - really musical soloing. This makes you wish the Tangent wrote more instruments. The title track is "Slow Rust", is a 22-minute epic in the usual Tangent vein, but lyrically focussed on how a lack of standards, professionalism and morals among the tabloid media in the UK have used xenophobia, hate, and racism to sell newspapers in the face of the internet onslaught. Musically this is again very strong, although it perhaps could have been a bit shorter. Following this is another excellent track "The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine", musically similar to the opening song, which wraps a discussion of the effects of aging on friendships together with a social commentary on the difficulties of having a real public discussion in which opposite voices are not talking past each other. The album ends with the tune that Tillison posted on the Tangent website early, well in advance of the publication of the album, "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road", a 17-minute epic of sorts but which is narrated, more like a radio play (in similar vein to Wakeman's 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth'). Here, Tillison compares the politics of right-wing populism, like that in the Brexit vote, Marine Le Pen's politics in France, or the Trump administration, to previous historical epochs. The inside of the album jacket contains a wonderful political cartoon on the same theme from a UK perspective by Mark Buckingham. Despite the clear political agenda here, the music is still very good, with a number of musical themes returning and intertwining to match the political story, making this worth listening to not only for the voice-over/lyrics, but also for the music (although one cannot help but hear the story, making this one track perhaps less flexible than the others). Thus officially ends a fantastic album. A bonus track ("Basildonexit") follows, however, continuing the general theme, although very different musically - a somewhat dancy-electronic number. It is weaker than the rest, but if one ends the album right after "A Few Steps..." and skips the bonus track, one still gets a full 74 minutes of excellent music. Really high value for money.

This album is clearly political. Some may not like this, wishing for a return to the more prosaic lyrical themes often found in regular rock. But when the lyrics are as good as this, I think they really add to the music. Furthermore, on this album I happen to think that the politics have been an important inspiration for the creation of some really great original relevant music. On the Tangent website news and blog section, there is a picture of refugees caged behind a fence, with the question "If these guys were in a band, do you think they would say "politics does not belong in music"?". As a life-long fan of Floyd, Waters, Wyatt, and a host of others, I can't help but identify with this general sentiment. Tillison acknowledges in the liner notes the situatedness of the album, that it came out of a very specific time and place, and suggests that years in the future, listeners may look back and consider it dated. This may be true, but I think the underlying message is one that transcends the here and now. It is a very human message, and like Waters in his recent song "Deja Vu", something tells me this is a message that not only will remain relevant for future societies, but one that we probably will need to keep hearing. But regardless of all that, the album is truly a musical accomplishment - one could ignore the lyrics entirely and just focus on the music, and would be thoroughly impressed. It takes a few spins though, with the lyrics so foregrounded, but once you have listened to it a number of times, the sheer musicality becomes evident.

Overall, a really fantastic album. One of the Tangent's best, and a stunning comeback from the less inspired previous album. I rate this album 9.1 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which places it in the 5 PA stars Masterpiece category. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#1888752)
Posted Saturday, February 24, 2018 | Review Permalink

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