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The Tangent - Proxy CD (album) cover

PROXY

The Tangent

Eclectic Prog


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5 stars Just over a year after the release of the wonderful album The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery comes the band's 10th. I was delighted when Andy Tillison announced its planned release date offering early access to demos of the songs, so I have followed the album's development closely and many of the songs already feel like old friends. The strapline to the album is "A protest, a reflection, a couple of regrets and a rant". I can confidently say that the rant is Supper's Off, a demo song included on the little known companion disc to Le Sacre Du Travail (L'╔tagere Du Travail). The quality of this song has always meant it deserved wider recognition and it is great that it has finally been released. Also included as a bonus track is an excerpt from one of Andy's side projects, Kalman Filter and taken from another of his 2018 releases Exo-Oceans, another fine album (instrumental) that deserves much wider recognition. That leaves the four tracks that are new to me. My favourite is The Adulthood Lie, at over 16 minutes, it is a fast- paced monster (you will also see it released as a single) that delighted me from first listen. This must be one of Andy's regrets. The album opens with the title track Proxy, also at over 16 minutes it is the longest track (just). This has to be the protest song. As is so often the case with The Tangent, the vocal is used sparingly to deliver the message (which it does) within a complex and enjoyable prog track. The Melting Andalusian Skies is an enjoyable and interesting instrumental track at just under nine minutes has a more laid back tempo but still a strong edge to it. I assume that this is the reflection. The shortest song is A Case Of Mistaken Optimism, and must be the other regret. This is an enjoyable toe-tapping piece with the clarity of Andy's vocal getting the message over very clearly. The musicianship on the album is of the highest standard and the overall packaged album is, for me, by some way the best of the year. Brilliant 5 stars.
Report this review (#2056197)
Posted Friday, November 16, 2018 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Modern proggers The Tangent return in 2018 with `Proxy', actually their tenth album to date, and damned if they haven't delivered the greatest of musical goods all over again, although they always set such a high standard that this shouldn't be a surprise! Andy Tillison, one of the most energetic and diverse keyboardists in modern prog as well as a hugely charismatic and distinctive vocalist, is joined once more by The Flower King's skilled bassist Jonas Reingold, talented young guitarist Luke Machin, modern Canterbury sound legend Theo Travis with his classy sax, flute and clarinet, ex-Godsticks drummer Steve Roberts and Karmakanic's G÷ran Edman on backing vocals, and they offer a first-rate collection of Canterbury-flavoured prog, electronic and jazzy extended pieces. `Proxy' is described as `a protest, a reflection, a couple of regrets and a rant', so it means that in addition to all the vibrant and enthusiastic playing, you get a stream of thoughtful lyrics, proving once again that Andy is one of the rare few in modern prog that prizes weighty and smart words of actual depth equally as much as all the instrumental showboating.

The opening sixteen minute title track proves that you can never predict which directions a Tangent piece will dart in, and big corporation tirade `Proxy' is all snappy drumming, humming keys, fiery guitar soloing, pumping sax and purring bass tearing in and out of brisk tempo changes back and forth that spring out of nowhere. Its opening Canterbury-modelled intro slinks into darker smoky grooves, Seventies jazz-fusion mellowness and rumbling heavier bursts, all peppered with Andy's condescending sneer. The Canterbury embracing maintains throughout the vocal-free `The Melting Andalusian Sky', where the band all get gorgeous improvised soloing showcase moments in between exotic reprising themes, and there's everything from nimble fingered late night/early a.m jazzy piano ruminations, tasty Latin touches and chill-out ambient interludes, making it truly one of the best instrumental pieces to pop up on a prog album in 2018.

`A Case Of Misplaced Optimism' is a mellow funky groover with an infectious chorus that will lodge itself in your brain for days (lovely restrained electronic slivers throughout this one too), but it's the frantic and deliciously schizophrenic `The Adulthood Lie' that proves to be the album highlight! A constantly up-tempo sprint of high energy with a welcome sense of sly humour and self-deprecating reflection, it's constantly driven by a peppy mix of programmed and clicking live drumming, jazzy sax blasts and flighty flute trills, pulsing bass and endlessly glitching electronics. How the colourful sixteen minute epic all manages to hold together brilliantly (as well as keeping your foot tapping and head bouncing!) is a miraculous miracle that speaks volumes about the skill of Andy and the players! `Supper's Off'' might kick off with punchy Asia-esque anthem-like guitars, but the ten-minute closer is loaded with bursts of angry ranted bile delivered with Andy's snarl, but it also settles into peppy little Canterbury touches and big synth themes too.

A perfect introduction for newcomers to what The Tangent do so well, as well as an endlessly satisfying disc for long-time fans, part of `Proxy's strength lies in the fact that it always remains endlessly melodic without simplifying the eclectic music styles and constantly improvised passages, meaning the disc is always surprisingly accessible. In `Proxy', the Tangent have not only delivered their most colourful and vibrant disc of their career to date, but one of the best progressive rock albums of 2018.

Five stars!

Report this review (#2113863)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you buy one CD in the next 12 months make sure it is this one. Quite simply brilliant from the first second of "Proxy" to the last second of "Suppers Off". This CD blew my grunties off and I reckon sent them skittering off down the street where they are now terrorising scousers 30 miles to west of where I live...This has got to be the best release of 2018, and any symphonic prog fan who doesn't think this is the dogs bollocks on toast is a mountebank cad brother of a soap dodgers dog! I love the lyrics and the musicianship is tight and powers the quirks till they sneak inside your scalp and your hair will never stand diwn again. This album has everything, brill bass, scintilating keys and even brilliant wind instruments. Guitar to kill for and a cheeky nod to the music that the three man Genesis could have produced ("suppers off" has a sound of ATTWT but is a billion times better). Just buy this and strap your undies on guys and gals...
Report this review (#2114894)
Posted Friday, January 4, 2019 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Can The Tangent really be back with their tenth album? Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about Andy Tillison and his exciting new band Parallel or 90 Degrees, which also featured a young musician called Guy Manning. They were both there at the beginning of this band as well, although Guy is now heavily involved in other groups, and there have been some changes in the line-up since the last album. Of course, Andy Tillison (Po90/Kalman Filter) is still there providing vocals and keyboards, while Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings/Steve Hackett Band) is still there providing bass as he has since the very beginning. Theo Travis (Soft Machine/Travis-Fripp) long ago replaced David Jackson on Saxophone and flute, while we have some newbies in guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine/Francis Dunnery Band) and drummer Steve Roberts (Magenta/Godsticks), plus there is a special guest in the guise of Goran Edman (Karmakanic, Yngwie Malmsteen band).

Andy always used to be very heavily influenced indeed by Peter Hammill and VDGG, but these days he has moved much more into the Canterbury scene, with Egg and Hatfield & The North being major influences, combined with Camel. The result is an album which in many ways feels very dated, while there are some sections on the title cut which could have been heard at a Pontins holiday camp in the Seventies, as well as some tunes from cinema advertising from the same era. But this album is much more than just a collage of different sounds and styles, with Hammond Organ sounds washing through the music and a bass so deep and solid that one feels it is possible to sit on the notes and fly around the room as they reverb out of the speakers.

Lyrically this is one of the most interesting albums I have heard in a while, with words which are far more cutting than the music. Track five is just under ten minutes long, "Supper's Off", and even the title alone lets the listener know they are in for something a little out of the ordinary. A million years ago Andy could be found earning a crust engineering for obscure and very heavy bands at a studio, but through the last thirty years he has continued to innovate and create great music, and this is one of the most enjoyable albums of his I have ever come across. Timeless, dated, modern, superb.

Report this review (#2186853)
Posted Thursday, April 25, 2019 | Review Permalink
Dapper~Blueberries
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have talked about The Tangent before, so I don't need to give them an introduction at this point. This album is their follow-up to 2017, highly political and poetic, The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery. Up until that point, this band has been relatively playing it a bit safe with their Prog convictions, sometimes dipping their toes in other styles, but mostly stayed true to a more symphonic and jazzy style of prog rock. However, with Slow Rust, we got some experimentation with the lyricism. It was extremely politically charged, and where other albums have dived into politics, they had more talking points included, only using politics for their bigger epics. This lyrical experimentation led the band to a new understanding of what they wanted to create, and in this album, we have experimentation in sound and style.

This is probably their most jazzy album yet. Proxy, the titular first track on the album, is dripping with jazz influence on it. I am getting flavors of Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and even a tiny bit of Herbie Hancock, mixed with the band's retro Prog nature. You know they have that really fun experimental jazz to them on this song. It switches up a lot going from a more fusion sound to a funk jazz sound to stuff that is a little more soulful. I gotta say I love how things feel very fresh on this record. Past albums have been good, but everything felt sort of similar, but here we get stuff that shows off the band's progressive nature. I also really think that this being a 16-minute track allows the band to try new things, and where most bands might get lost and confused with no direction, here we can see that these boys have a knack for finding the style they want to find, most likely because they are all pretty substantial Prog musicians who've been in bands before. Overall this is great.

This whole new direction continues in The Melting Andalusian Skies. So where the last song had that sort of experimentation in their style, here we can see them taking some influence off of more well-known Prog bands such as Yes or King Crimson. This has a very Relayeresque sound to it, with a lot of more improv and classically focused music, but in a more tightly knit and stylized sound. I do think, however, that while this song is good, it is pretty weak all things considered. I do not find the whole style they have here to be all that original, and retro Prog isn't that original, to begin with, but here I feel like they are sort of ripping off bands from the past more than just taking influence from them. It's rather lukewarm in that regard. I cannot say it is a bad song, but whenever I hear it, I sort of just want to listen to Yes instead.

However, things do get better with A Case of Misplaced Optimism. This song is funky. Like really funky. It has that smooth foot-tapping beat with a nice bass line, and a cool piano in the back leading the song forward. It's very fun, and honestly, I do think The Tangent benefits heavily from jazz Prog more than they do with symphonic Prog. They can make great suites with very beautiful endings, but they feel very safe in terms of Prog standards. Here, we are getting styles of funk, jazz, R&B, and many more polyrhythmic music genres. This song is great, it just helps the band move forward in this journey of finding interesting ways of continuing their Prog sound.

The last track on the album, minus the two bonus tracks Supper's Off and Excerpt From Exo Oceans, The Adulthood Lie is the band's peak in their stylistic journey. This is them diving deep into not just jazz but a boatload of different types of mediums. I can hear distinct sounds of space rock, metal, experimental music, heck I think, with the drums and the melody played on the synths, I can even hear a little bit of inspiration from video game soundtracks. It feels like a track you'd hear from like a Sonic game, but obviously with a proggy flair. Honestly, I think this combination of styles works. This album feels like a journey through finding a new clear style, and their pinnacle being their last track, one filled with plenty of variations of music, really helps. You know I think The Tangent works best without the need of retreading old ground and judging from the albums afterward, Auto Reconnaissance and Songs From The Hard Shoulder, we got just that in terms of sound, quality, and styles.

I do think this album is great, not a masterpiece, but it's one that I highly encourage you to check out. I suggest that if you might not liked their previous efforts then this album is worth a try since it holds some of the most experimental, and deeply enriched music they have created so far. This is a very great record and one that I do appreciate in the long run.

Report this review (#2787430)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2022 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I have been doing a lot of reminiscing today thinking about Tillison's first band PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES and how much I enjoyed them back in the day. "Proxy" is the 10th studio album released by THE TANGENT and Andy's sound has evolved from that VDGG/ Peter Hammill style on PARALLEL OR 90 DEGREES to more of a jazzy/ Canterbury vibe with THE TANGENT but one thing that hasn't changed is Tillison's incredible song writing. Yes even his vocal style was influenced by Hammill in a big way, more so in the early days. Heck they even got Hugh Banton of VDGG to guest on organ on their debut in 1996. But the lyrics continue to be very relevant and the man is one of us, a fan, and he's not afraid to sing about the things we all can relate to. I still remember his story about meeting Roger Waters on a plane and having a very interesting conversation with him and he actually thanked him in the liner notes of "Unbranded" for "The shoe factory in Tawain".

That relevancy certainly continues on 2018's "Proxy" another outstanding release by this five piece band. Andy writes in the liner notes "This record is for my dad". He also says "This was our 10th album made in the 25th year of our record label's history. We thank them as one, for belief, trust and dedication and wish them well for the future". There's a lot of rants on here, and I think Andy has earned the right to this and I can relate to most of them. "Proxy" and "The Adult Lie" are both over 16 minutes and they certainly scratch that Prog itch in a big way. The closer "Supper's Off" contains three more rants along with some very thoughtful lyrics. There's one instrumental "The Melting Andalusian Skies" where Theo Travis adds some nice sax.

This album is more about the keyboards and bass than guitar and drums and I always appreciate the jazzy elements of this band's music. This is more fun than "The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery" but not as good in my opinion. I need to check out their two 2020's albums as well. This was a pleasure to spend time with this past week, like revisiting an old friend. The collaborators here voted this as the 6th best album of 2018, a lot of respect obviously.

Report this review (#2853414)
Posted Sunday, November 20, 2022 | Review Permalink

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