The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, are pleased to announce the release of their 11th studio album ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ on the 21st August 2020. The follow-up to 2018’s ‘Proxy’, sees them taking the band philosophy of celebrating the golden age of prog, whilst bringing it to the present and exploring new paths for the music to take in the future. On ‘Auto Reconnaissance’, they bend that philosophy to their will, taking in prog rock foot Stomping, sublime Jazz, humour, narrative, a modern R&B love song, funk/soul and a 28 minute long emotional epic about the band’s home country of England.
Andy comments: “I utterly refuse to accept that Progressive Rock Music is some kind of museum piece. It is actually a living and breathing movement that has a past, a present and above all, a future. It once had an album-chart-topping golden age, but the genre was never about that. It has subtly and virally kept itself alive for decades where many new musical genres have risen to glory and faded away.”
For this release, Andy is once again joined by long-time collaborator Luke Machin (who also helped produce the album), Jonas Reingold, Theo Travis, and Steve Roberts. Together they bring to life an album that has been influenced by the likes of ELP, The Isley Brothers, Steely Dan, Aphex Twin, National Health, Rose Royce, Squarepusher and Return To Forever amongst others.
Andy comments of the current line-up: “In the past 6 years the line-up of The Tangent has become more stable than at the beginning. I think that the identity of the Tangent as a “Group” rather than a “Project” started to come together on the album ‘A Spark In The Aether’ in 2014. Essentially Luke, Jonas, Theo and myself have appeared on the last four albums, and we added Steve Roberts for the tour that supported ‘Slow Rust’ in 2017 and we’ve settled on this line-up. I hope for a while because I find this unit to be productive, in tune with the band’s purpose and manifesto and a lot of fun to boot. The new album ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ is the first time that the core band has been identical in structure to its predecessor. For the first time I feel that everyone is “in tune” with the fusion of Jazz, Prog, Punkishness and electronica that The Tangent likes to cook up. We are a good group of friends and although we don’t meet up often, it’s a real blast when we do. I’ve always considered Ed Unitsky the cover artist to have been a recurring member of the cast – his artwork has been a huge part of our story and although we move away, we always return.”
‘Auto Reconnaissance’ will be available as Limited CD Digipak (incl. bonus track), Gatefold 2LP + CD + LP booklet & as Digital Album, all featuring the artwork of Ed Untisky, whose visuals have not been seen on a Tangent album ince 2014’s ‘A Spark In The Aether’. The full track-listing can be found below:
1. Life On Hold
2. Jinxed In Jersey
3. Under Your Spell
4. The Tower Of Babel
5. Lie Back & Think Of England
6. The Midas Touch
7. Proxima (Bonus Track)
The Tangent are the following players:
Andy Tillison – Vocals, Lyrics, Keyboards, Composer
Jonas Reingold (The Sea Within, Steve Hackett Band) – Bass Guitar
Theo Travis (Soft Machine, David Gilmour, Travis-Fripp) – Sax & Flute
Luke Machin (Maschine, Francis Dunnery Band) – Guitar
Steve Roberts (David Cross Band, ex Magenta, Godsticks) – Drums
2018 has been a rather excellent year for new music. It seems like no sooner has one great album come along then another arrives into the inbox at Progradar Towers. Music of all sorts of genres and description but the overriding feeling I have got this year is that there is joy back in music. The majority of new releases I’m hearing have enforced my faith in the restorative abilities of music and the fact that music can simply put a smile on your face and make the world a happier place to be in.
The latest album to get me buzzing and happy to get out of bed on a wet and miserable October morning is the new release, and 10th studio release, from progressive rock stalwarts The Tangent:
“Entitled “Proxy” it’s a single CD and Vinyl – a riot of juxtopposing styles, presented in a really direct manner and despite being firmly rooted in the stylistic traits of the Progressive Rock Genre takes some unexpected turnoffs and a major swerve.
Recorded during the band’s tour with Karmakanic in 2017/18 – there were more chances than normal to work together on the record – hotel writing sessions, van discussions, soundcheck ideas – all of which have allowed the band to make an album that is organic and as close to being that band, as has happened to the group of far flung members since they began their career 15 years ago.”
Thank you press release, main man Andy Tillison goes on to say, “I often think of good progressive albums as being like the Bayeux Tapestry, an account of the times the band lives in, using all the history that got us to that point, commenting on the Now with the experience of the past.”
Andy agreed with me that ‘Proxy’ is a lighter album than ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’, the band’s previous studio release but it does start with the obligatory protest song, title track Proxy. A track about the continuing wars that share their name with the song. The Tangent have always brought politics into progressive rock and this song carries on that connection, Prog always being born from counterculture. It’s a complete prog reference journey with Tillison’s swirling hammonds and synths, Jonas Reingold’s signature punchy bass, Steve Roberts’ dynamic drums and Luke Machin’s stylistic guitar work. Take yourself on a sisteen minute nostalgic road trip punctuated by the ever so elegant sax and flute of Theo Travis, this is what the band have always been good at, delivering a potent message with lashings of fantastic music to ease it home. The guitar and vocal motif at the end puts a particularly large smile on my face, tipping a nod to the 70’s in the process, The Tangent are back!
Now the album takes a wander over into left-field territory with the jazz-fusion instrumental The Melting Andalusian Skies, a piece of music as laid back as they come, sit back, enjoy the warm, sunny feel and let the ever so smooth sounds flow over you. Luke and Andy trade guitar and synth like the best jazz pros and Theo gives the whole shebang the necessary chuzpah. Luke throws in some Gordon Giltrap guitar and even acid jazz to give a psychedelic overtone, this is music for the hell of it, these guys are having a seriously good time, it’s patently obvious. Described by the band as an attempt to find the missing link between Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai, A Case Of Misplaced Optimism is more funk than any man should have to handle! This track will get you digging the groove and saying ‘yeah man’ every five seconds, it is seriously infectious piece of music that put a huge grin on my face, yep, the joy is here for everyone to hear.
Rapidly becoming one of my all time favourite songs by the band, The Adulthood Lie is my stand out track on what is becoming a seriously good album. The Tangent do electronic dance music (yes you read that right, EDM!) and it works brilliantly. I know Andy wasn’t sure how the fans would take this homage to Ibiza, Fatboy Slim, Sophie Ellis Bextor and the rest but, to me, it’s a fantastic track. It’s chock full of catchy moments and a seriously infectious vibe that gets you up and dragging your dancing boots out of the cupboard before you even know what you’re doing. You know what, this is what progressive music should be about, you’re hearing a true progression and maturation of The Tangent’s sound and it’s bloody brilliant. As Andy says,
“Our belief is that Progressive Rock music is still a valid and viable musical form in 2018 and will continue to be so. Our band has always sought to take on board things from the present and add them to that magical mix. We don’t claim to be offering the FUTURE. We just claim to be offering one set of possibilities. Ours. Now.”
There’s a repeated vocal line that runs through the song that starts, “When I was young, I fell in love…”, trust me, that will rapidly become a glorious earworm! Andy admitted the band had gone a bit mad on this track but was really glad that they had.
“The whole of Supper’s Off came from a daft thing I said about “Cooking The Books Of Revelation” in a rather boring meeting at college…”
Being a fellow Yorkshireman, Andy has a particular sense of humour, Supper’s Off was a recording made at the time of (Tangent album) ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’. It wasn’t properly recorded until this album but it’s another iteration of The Tangent’s so called Fast Song. GPS Culture, Evening TV, Uphill From Here and Spark In The Aether could be said to be the others. My friend, and Bad Elephant Music boss, David Elliott has called it “an anthem for the modern progressive rock band” and he’s not wrong. A captivating and utterly addictive track with the funkiest keyboard hook and guitar riff going, it’s blasts into your mind at a mind-blowing rate of knots and takes everybody on a fun-fuelled musical roller coaster ride before tipping its hat and firing off into the distance.
Normality is resumed with the ten minute bonus of Excerpt From “Excerpt From “Exo-Oceans”, a little dip into Andy’s Kalman Filter material which is edgy, spaced out and best listened to in the dark with something addictive (legally, obviously!! you know, like Whiskey!) and this brings the heart rate down nicely so you can actually process what you’ve just listened to.
‘Proxy’ is a joyous celebration of music, done in The Tangent’s inimitable style. It’s an album that truly bears repeated listens, I’m sure Andy has left little chestnuts and references in there for people to pick up on. What we’re hearing is a true progression of the band’s sound that, while keeping what has always made them who they are, now resonates even more clearly with the world we live in. Music to make you think and music to lift your soul, what more can you ask for?
The Tangent, the progressive rock group led by Andy Tillison, will release their 10th studio album ‘Proxy’ on November 16th, 2018. Recorded during the band’s tour with Karmakanic in 2017/18, which saw them with more chances than normal to work together on the record – hotel writing sessions, van discussions, soundcheck ideas – all of which have allowed the band to make an album that is as organic as they have achieved since their formation 15 years ago.
Andy Tillison comments: “Our belief is that Progressive Rock music is still a valid and viable musical form in 2018 and will continue to be so. Our band has always sought to take on board things from the present and add them to that magical mix. We don’t claim to be offering the FUTURE. We just claim to be offering one set of possibilities. Ours. Now.”
‘Proxy’ is a riot of juxtaposing styles, presented in a really direct manner and despite being firmly rooted in the stylistic traits of the Progressive Rock Genre takes some unexpected turnoffs and a major swerve. The albums kicks off with a trademark Tangent prog fantasia based around growling Hammonds, shrieking Synths, whirling guitars and sharp percussive bass – influences of ELP, Egg, Hatfield & the North, Caravan and Camel proudly worn on their sleeves. This 16-minute title track eventually becomes a protest song about the continuing wars that share their name with the song.
But this album features no overall concept. The second track is a sun-drenched Mediterranean fusion instrumental, more Chick Corea than Che Guevara. And the third track is referred to by the band as an attempt to find the missing link between Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai. By the time we reach the centrepiece epic track ‘The Adulthood Lie’, the rulebook has been left behind and the band are trying to fix the car with whatever is at hand. The Tangent came of age some time ago now. After 15 years with a constant presence on the periphery of the scene, this album is the next step on the road from a band who have painstakingly revered and recreated the past, with one eye on the future.
The album will be available as a limited CD digipak, Vinyl LP + CD & as digital download. The full track-listing is as follows:
2.The Melting Andalusian Skies
3.A Case of Misplaced Optimism
4.The Adulthood Lie
6.Excerpt From “Exo-Oceans” (Bonus Track)
The album features the following players: Andy Tillison – Vocals, Lyrics, Keyboards, Composer Jonas Reingold (The Sea Within, Steve Hackett Band) – Bass Guitar Theo Travis (Soft Machine, Travis-Fripp) – Sax & Flute Luke Machin (Maschine, Francis Dunnery Band) – Guitar Steve Roberts (ex Magenta, Godsticks) – Drums
With special guest: Goran Edman (Karmakanic) – Vocals
With the debut self-titled album from Gleb Kolyadin (iamthemorning) released today on Kscope, the Russian virtuoso pianist premieres a new video for the song “Storyteller” which features special guest Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater
Gleb comments on the song and the Kolyadin/Rudess collaboration “Storyteller is the final point of this musical journey. After passing through intricate corridors and stairs, the character finds a secret room where he comes to understand himself and everything that is happening with him. The room is a real mystical location in which time and space are intertwined.
I think no one could play the solo part better than Jordan. His rocking piece is the true magic. I’m happy that everything turned out the way it did: his part was the most important detail that breathe new life into the track.”
Gleb Kolyadin is an emotive exploration of self-identity; a story of two parts with interweaving leitmotifs. The album’s central concept weaves through an elaborate tonal and thematic structure, built around the extraordinary rhythm section of Gavin Harrison and Nick Beggs, which is accented at its focal points by guest appearances from Steve Hogarth, Jordan Rudess, Mick Moss and Theo Travis.
The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.
Gleb Kolyadin is available on CD / LP and digitally and is available HERE
I suppose, like me, the music you listen to depends on the mood you are in? Uptempo, fast-paced music for workouts or when you are in a really energetic mood or perhaps the chilled out, more relaxing music for a quiet night in and then there is that album that sits a bit on the fence, it has the higher cadence but also the easygoing, even emotive tracks that make it a great listen.
I was lucky enough to receive the promo for Gleb Kolyadin’s (pianist and co-songwriter of Iamthemorning)self-titled solo release and was intrigued to find out whether it would be more of his day job or a change from the norm that would head in other directions. Along that journey I have had the pleasure to become engrossed in what is a wonderful musical adventure…
The record features a staggering who’s-who of performers, including: Gavin Harrison (King Crimson / Porcupine Tree) on drums; Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson) on bass; Theo Travis (Robert Fripp / Porcupine Tree / Steven Wilson) on flute and saxophone; the unmistakable voice and lyrics of Steve Hogarth (Marillion) alongside Mick Moss (Antimatter); and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater) on additional keys.
The album is a collaborative piece with each musician recording their own parts separately, starting with Gleb recording himself on grand piano in Moscow Winter-Spring 2017 at the famed Mosfilm studio. The album was mixed and engineered by Vlad Avy, who also previously worked on the two Iamthemorning records.
There’s a wonderful freshness and freedom to the music that Gleb delivers, whether it is the instrumental tracks where his piano playing is key or the vocal tracks where intimate stories are weaved by the collaborative voices of Mick Moss and Steve Hogarth. The near-frantic tempo of opener Insight is a case in point with Gleb’s dextrous digits flying over the ivories to give a breathtaking demonstration of his skill. The accompanying musicians add a veneer of sheer class, Theo’s sax really stands out and you could imagine yourself standing to applaud as it comes to a close. There’s a humble feel to the opening of Astral Architecture, the gentle piano is hushed in comparison giving an ethereal grace to the song. Mick Moss adds a subtle authority as his vocals begin, full of feeling yet with an undercurrent of melancholy, they draw you into there intimate embrace and you willingly follow. A fantastical aura settles over the song as the vocals take on a more passionate note and the classical strings add gravitas, a powerfully emotive track. The elegant notes of White Dawn wouldn’t be out of place in a piano recital, oozing class and panache, it’s a short interlude that could be termed a musical amuse-bouche and it leaves a lovely feeling on the aural palate.
The theme continues but at a much faster tempo as we segue into Kaleidoscope, a track that lives up to its name as you are taken through a huge spectrum of musical wonder by Gleb’s incredible skill and artistry. Tatiana Dubovaya’s haunting vocals give an air of mystery and intrigue but it is a piece of music that fairly skips along without a care in the world and you gladly join the ride as Theo Travis’ flute takes up the reins to take us to a breathtaking close. The momentum slows a little for the captivating charm of Eidolon to beguile and enchant before the slightly discordant notes of Into the Void carry on the recurring musical theme, quite insistent and incessant in their delivery. Again, this is classical music given over to a mass audience with the added skill and expertise of modern day, real world musicians added into the mix to create something quite unique. The unrelenting timbre is carried over to The Room but you always feel the performers are totally in control of proceedings. A note of seriousness has entered the music in places, the happy-go-lucky quality taking a step into the shadows without leaving altogether, Theo’s sax playing adding a gritty feeling of ‘out there’ jazz playing to the furious piano that closes out the track.
There’s a wistful, darker aura that descends around Confluence, a dreamlike and wistful opening seems to be meandering to nowhere in particular with is deliberately slow tempo and Steve Hogarth’s hushed spoken word vocal barely heard in the background. It’s a wistful, contemplative tapestry on which a beautifully mournful soundscape is created. The music has a thoughtful and reflective ambience as it dances gently across your aural synapses and belies its ten minute plus length. This song is a testament to Gleb’s creativity as it twists and turns to gather pace before applying the brakes, always demanding your attention, an introspective piece of music that leaves a lasting impression on your mind. Constellation The Bell is a moving song that has a barely hidden fragility behind the impressive piano playing, an eloquent and expressive three minutes that leaves a hollow feeling behind. There’s a grandiose and ebullient impression to the short lived Echo Sigh Strand, a track where Gleb’s piano playing seems to emanate from his very being to come alive and it crackles with electricity, powerful and exciting.
Penrose Stairs carries on the pomp and circumstance with added theatrics, a vibrant and imposing track aided and abetted by Gleb’s stellar accompanying cast of musicians. However, it is the intricacies of his skillful piano playing that is always at the core of these songs. The involving complexities of the elaborate Storyteller take on a slightly menacing tone as Jordan Rudess’ instantly recognisable keyboard skills take over, it’s quite a thrilling joyride from beginning to end. All good things must come to an end and the dulcet tones of Steve Hogarth herald the closing track on the album The Best of Days. A fantastically nostalgic song where Gleb and Steve work together perfectly to deliver a sentimental track that tugs at the heartstrings. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it but there’s just something about this song that really works and, to my ears, it is near musical perfection.
I met Gleb at this year’s Summer’s End festival and he is a quiet, polite and very unassuming man, perhaps it is through his creative side and his music that he can really express himself. This self-titled solo debut is pretty much a work of art where the undoubted piano playing skills of this virtuoso musician are complemented by some of the most prominent musicians around to give us something quite wonderful and ultimately rewarding and something which I cannot recommend highly enough.
Already well known as a talented guitarist, Niko Tsonev profile was raised by stepping up and becoming the touring guitarist and member of John Young’sLifesigns project, and whilst his guitar was missing from their debut album he toured with them from 2013 – 2016 becoming an integral part of the bands sound, and appearing on their successfully crowd funded live CD/DVD package ‘Under the Bridge’, and guests on their second release ‘Cardington’.
Stepping away from the Lifesigns, Niko has thrown himself into his latest project Moonparticle, and as a guitarist and performer of his calibre he could pretty much pick and choose who he works with, this means the band is full of talent like Craig Blundell on drums, Theo Travis on flute, Adam Holtzman on keys and Grog Lisee adding the female touch with her superb vocals.
The pedigree in this band suggests that what you’re about to listen to is going to be something special, and the huge bandwidth of genres that they span means that musically you’re going to be in for a treat.
In lesser musicians hands this eclectic mix of genres and styles would fall apart, and be a bit over complicated and cluttered, luckily we are listening to masters of their game, and you can tell they have enjoyed working on this album, as the musical ideas crackle with the sort of electricity that comes from bands just clicking.
Niko is definitely one of the finest guitarist plying his trade currently, and it’s no surprise that on tracks like Hurricane Esmerelda or Helium 1 & Helium IIhis guitar is at the fore, and it’s amazing how he can move from rocking out to pulling some fine melodic sounds out of the guitar.
Again, anyone who saw Lifesigns would know how important he was to the live sound and the stage presence he had.
You then get tracks like the sublime Strength of a Thousand Year Rose, an absolute epic rock ballad for want of a better word, where Grog’s amazing vocals come to the fore, and the solos that Niko pulls off throughout are the most melodically restrained, you can tell he is holding back and the restrain and power shines through.
There are quirky song titles that draw you in, and I do wonder in calling one track Reverend Mum whether one of the band is a fan of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins books, throughout this track there is some lovely fluid guitar work, Blundells percussive work is on point as ever, and the way the guitar, percussion and subtle keyboard sounds work here are fantastic, ebbing flowing and building to a wonderfully euphoric finale.
This is also the second prog(ish) record to feature a track called Winter Mountain, and it’s about as far removed from the Mostly Autumn track as is possible to get, this one brimming with power and warmth.
Adam Holtzman and Theo Travis are sublime throughout, which is to be expected, and what is wonderful with this album is that whilst the guitar sound is at the fore, there is no hogging of the limelight, each artist gets room to breathe and the way they meld their sound is a joy to behold, all the while pulled together by the rock steady beat of Craig Blundell (who has been doing a sterling job with Lonely Robot recently) the haunting guitar and keys sound on the closer Leon’s Experiment, with some great crunchy riffs and powerful drumbeat, pulls this mightily accomplished album to a close.
Blending sublime instrumental work with some superb songs, and a cracking vocalist, Moonparticle have surpassed themselves and created what I reckon is the debut album of the year. A wonderful blend of genre hopping musical light and shade, heavy when it needs to be, chock full of tunes and serious musical talents at work, with vocals to die for. This is how to do a debut album and it shows to anyone who hasn’t realised yet, just how mighty a talent Niko Tsonev is.
“Hurricane Esmeralda is a hard hitting album that grows on you with each listen. Bursting with the virtusosity of Prog and the sophistication of Jazz, it above all impresses with its beautifully crafted songs that take you places…”
Moonparticle is the music collective put together in 2017 by virtuoso guitarist/producer Niko Tsonev (ex-Steven Wilson, Lifesigns) featuring an extraordinary group of musicians: Pianist Adam Holzman (Miles Davis, Robben Ford), Saxophonist Theo Travis (Robert Fripp, David Gilmour), Drummer Craig Blundell (Frost*, Steven Wilson), Violinist Samy Bishai (Natacha Atlas, Digitonal) and Vocalist Grog Lisee (Die So Fluid, Ozzy Osbourne).
Recorded between January and July 2017, Moonparticle’s debut was funded by a
successful PledgeMusic campaign. The recording took place in various locations – each musician adding their contribution from their own recording studio (London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles) via online file sharing. Produced and mixed by Niko Tsonev, the album was mastered by Jon Astley (Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Porcupine Tree). The artwork and graphic design were conceived by digital artist Be Wilde.
The title ‘Hurricane Esmeralda’ was inspired by themes of inner awareness and growth, and the process of pure creation. The virtuoso level of musicianship displayed by the aforementioned musicians throughout the 40 minutes of music, complements the primary focus of the album – inspired songwriting and brave musical performances.
Originally released on the 3rd Stone label in February 2001, Returning Jesus is a collection of ambitious songs which combine Singer-Songwriter, Chamber Jazz, Progressive and Ambient influences with the band’s unique widescreen production and seductively melancholy compositions. Released two months following Steven Wilson‘s 2017 solo album To The Bone, which reached #3 in the UK charts, #2 in DE, #1 in FI, #4 in NL and CH, #7 in AT, #12 in BE, #14 in IT and #15 in NO, and following Tim Bowness‘ 2017 album Lost in the Ghost Light, which reached #5 in the UK Rock charts and #8 in the UK Progressive charts.
Returning Jesus received positive reviews in Q, Uncut, Billboard, Classic Rock and other publications at the time of its release and has continued to be seen by both critics and fans as one of the best albums by the duo of Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson.
Guest musicians include Steve Jansen (Japan/Rain Tree Crow) on drums, Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) on bass and double bass, Theo Travis (Soft Machine) on saxophone and flute, and Ian Dixon on trumpet. The late trumpeter Ian Carr (Nucleus), David Kosten (Faultline, Bat For Lashes) and Ben Christophers contribute to the evocative opening piece “Only Rain”.
The double CD edition features a 2017 remaster from Steven Wilson and sleeve notes by Tim Bowness – and contains the original album, plus a bonus disc of b-sides, demos and alternate versions; plus additional artwork and photographs from regular No-Man collaborator Carl Glover. With the double 180g heavyweight audiophile double vinyl edition also featuring a 2017 remaster by Steven Wilson, packaged in a gatefold sleeve with additional artwork and photographs from Carl Glover.
(Picture of Tim and Steven also by Carl Glover.)
Listen to “Outside The Machine” here:
NO-MAN – RETURNING JESUS – TRACKLIST DETAILS (2CD VERSION )
‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ by The Tangent succeeds at every level, from the incredible depth and texture of the colours in Mark Buckingham’s arresting album art to the pacing of the expansive musical compositions. Band leader Andy Tillison has talked about working to recover his ‘mojo’ after a long hospital stay, and ‘Slow Rust’ makes clear that he’s found it, perhaps in greater quantity even than before. In particular, the album comfortably engages an intriguing dialectic between global politics and individual relationships; broad social commentary and hyper-specific lyrical descriptions; fury and compassion; and the musical energies of seasoned and youthful collaborators. Along the way, Tillison & Co. play jazz, funk, punk, prog, techno, ambient, and heavy rock to great effect.
The album opens with the “pocket symphony” Two Rope Swings, which packs the musical and thematic expanse of a 20 minute epic into a mere 6.5 minutes. Each member of the band turn in lovely performances here, including newcomer Marie-Eve de Gaultier, whose vocals emphasize the mournful aspect of realizing our ignorance concerning those who live in a different skin from our own—whether human or otherwise. Tillison’s wonderfully detailed lyrics express the global import of the song through their very specificity:
“And we think Africa is like some fairyland/Like in the picturebooks we read when we played on the swings/Lions and tigers and wildebeests and zebra…Kilimanjaro”
What do we expect from each other, when we make our adult choices with the naivete of a child reading picture books on a rope swing? When we can’t even place an entire species of animals on the right continent, imagining African lions as living side by side with Asian tigers?
Doctor Livingstone (I Presume), besides possessing the perfect, playful title for a long instrumental, showcases the band’s seemingly limitless musical muscle. Leaping right over the gate with lithe bass, rolling organ, and a melodic synth lead, the track quickly sets the stage then shines the spotlight on guitarist Luke Machin’s searing but instantly accessible soloing. Theo Travis provides plenty of nuanced saxes and flutes along the way, while piano and acoustic guitar occasionally accent the trading off between bass, synth, guitar, and sax solos. What begins as a relatively mellow jazz exercise rolls to full boil midway with some heavier riffs and shredding from Machin; not content to climax at its most intense moment, the track slides into a more classically jazz section that highlights even further the god-level bass genius of Jonas Reingold. Taken all together, this instrumental melds early 70’s jazz-influenced prog with mid-60’s Impulse! Records jazz experimentation. It also succeeds as a test for a new addition to The Tangent’s line-up: if you want to prove the mettle of your new drummer, how better than with an extended jazz work-out? The spry young lad taking over drum controls makes a great showing here that matches but never overwhelms the contributions of his bandmates, and it’s quite the surprise that this talent has not been tapped by the band on previous outings.* Perhaps the snare could have been a bit punchier to better complement Reingold’s monster tone, or the crash treated with less decay, but those are minor differences of production opinion that don’t detract from a stellar debut performance.
On an album replete with highlights, title track Slow Rust is clearly the centrepiece. All the righteous indignation, cynical wisdom, and nimble musicality of the album are placed on full display for 22 intense minutes. On the face of it, this song is inspired by the same series of recent events that prompted A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road, namely, the horrendous slandering of “migrants” by the UK press in the wake of 2016’s Brexit vote. But Slow Rust is this and so much more. Rooting around behind the mere occurrence of such hateful news reporting, Tillison explores the contributing factors. How is it that celebrity gossip, local events, and national politics coexist on equal footing in the papers? We all know that this paper has this party bias and that one another, but how do the potentially myriad perspectives of numerous writers and editors fall out along such neat lines, and why must we find a ready group on which to place the blame for our perceived problems? When there’s profits to be had, and fear and hatred turn a profit, any story becomes about the insecurities of the reader; the actual story of another person’s hardship gets twisted into the story of how an influx of persecuted refugees affects my life:
“Ah, when the helpless are a threat/What does that say about the rest of us?”
Furthermore, when only binary choices are on offer, the rejection of one point of view becomes the ready adoption of another, and either way someone will be waiting to accept your payment. Even Education, the great salvation of the Enlightenment, is implicated. If schools are just an ideas factory for “Corporate automatons,” then the same principle of profit and binary choices will drive all learning:
“Become a teacher and bow your head/To the passing fashions where you get led/Recite your mantras, but say your prayers/’Cause what else have you done? The future’s theirs/To sell textbooks/That’s all they’re here to do”
Even for a Prog Epic, this is an incredibly expansive track, though it never feels stretched or repetitive. There’s no thesis, but it’s focused polemic more than angry rant. It also seriously rocks. Tillison turns in a number of noteworthy synth and vocal performances, especially in the funky and heavy “Binary Choices” section that includes effected spoken word vocals and a reference to President Biff. Reingold is, again, a force-beyond-nature on bass throughout the song, though de Gaultier is the key ingredient that lifts everything above the sum of its parts. Here and elsewhere on the album, the soft timbre of her voice pervades every open space, simultaneously smoothing, undergirding, and highlighting whatever else is happening musically. Depending on Tillison’s role at any moment, this includes supporting the more mournful notes in his voice or providing the comforting sweater counterpoint to his angry grandpa affectation.
De Gaultier’s vocals are also essential to the emotion of The Sad Story of Lead and Astatine, as she permeates the very pretty and hopeful chorus to an otherwise sad tale. Her reassuring suggestion for a repaired relationship sharpens the sadness of the song once you realize that of course, as per the song’s title, this advice will be ignored in favour of doubling down on prideful posturing. As such, this track provides the personal counterpoint to the album’s finale: in the microcosm, destructive pride and redirected fear can lead a person, as well as a country, a few steps down the wrong road. Musically, The Sad Story leaves plenty of room for jazzy solos, including some gorgeous flute work by Travis, a healthy dose of flittering piano, a classic drum solo, and more arresting guitar shredding from Machin.
‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’ culminates in the Prog-Punk Theatre of A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road. The punk elements are noteworthy, but the spirits of Emerson and Lake are as strong here as that of Johnny Rotten, Tillison playing some particularly nice analogue synths to punctuate the story. Like Slow Rust, this song is about the post-Brexit rise of hatred toward those of ‘questionable origin’, but it’s also about the historical recurrence of inhumane attitudes, and serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers in not learning our history lessons already. Alternating between spoken word narration, explosive rock bombast, proggy excess, jazzy swagger, and punk aggression, this epic competes for “most quintessential Tangent track” as well as “most timely political commentary by a musical artist.” If ever a polemic needed pressing to a side of vinyl, it’s this one. When the album reaches its depressing conclusion, be sure to immediately start it over again. The opening strains of Two Rope Swings, with de Gualtier’s call of “halcyon days,” take on an elegiac character when placed immediately following A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road.
With ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, Where Do We Draw the Line Now?)’ The Tangent have progressed by retaining everything that made their previous work great while seamlessly integrating these elements with new musical contributions that hold up to the weighty subject matter. The album burns with all the conscience and compassion called for by our times. It simultaneously maintains a spirit of joy and playfulness in the performances. A clear contender for Album of the Year, ‘Slow Rust’ is wonderfully immediate while reserving unfathomable depths to be explored across repeated listens for years to come.
*This reviewer is simultaneously sincere and facetious: yes, I’m aware that the drummer is Andy Tillison himself. It is genuinely a surprise that Tillison’s drumming was not previously featured, because he’s quite good.
This is the fourth release from Belgian born prog band Fish on Friday, and see’s them stretching their musical wings even further, having coalesced around the founding members William Beckers & Frank Van Boagaert, the line up now includes one of prog’s hardest working bassists Nick Beggs, Californian guitarist Marty Townsend and Marcus Weymaere.
Following on from 2014s Godspeed (also released on Esoteric Antenna) it takes the musical sound of accessible prog (very much in the vein of the Alan Parsons Project, Big Big Train etc) further down their journey.
With the band being introduced to Alan Parsons, one track, the wonderfully haunting In the Key of Silence, was recorded by Alan at Abbey Road, and he even adds his vocals to the track, whilst another of prog’s hard working men, Lonely Robot’s John Mitchell, adds some of his wonderfully fluid guitar work to the track.
The key to the band’s success is their songwriting, as, whilst it’s obvious plenty of hard work goes into crafting such a well realised album of this, from the outside it is like the swan gliding across the lake, we can see the beauty and the majesty and can’t see all the kicking under water as it glides effortlessly into our ears.
This album is also a grower, it’s one of those records where after two or three listens the hooks work their way into your mind, and you find yourself humming tunes, or singing the lyrics, and each listen you get more and more out of it, like a well written novel or intricately crafted piece of art, it reveals more of it’s secrets the more you listen to it.
It also makes a massive contrast from Nick Beggs’ other album release this year, the far darker and angrier Mute Gods‘Tardigrades Will Inherit the Earth’, and his work on here is the ying to that’s yang. Restrained, fluid, and intuitive, this is Beggs at calm, and just because it’s a calmer album it doesn’t mean there’s no power behind it.
With tracks as emotive as the powerful MH17 all about the downed Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down over the Ukraine, the lyrics mix the anger and grief, and with some truly beautiful work by both Theo Travis adding his unique sound to the song, and female vocals by Chantal Kashala and Nina Babet, this is remarkable track by anyone’s standards.
Unreal, has shades of Floyd in there with some truly wonderful lyrics and a blinding guitar finale, whilst Nick Beggs daughter Lula adds her superb voice to tracks Sweet Love and Quiet Life.
The female harmonies throughout this album are sublime and add so much to the tracks that they appear on, working so well with Frank Van Boagaert’s understated, yet powerful vocal range, and I’ve known a track that is so calm and chilled, bristling with so much anger in the vocals as You’ve Hurt Me, with it’s mighty chorus and emotive lyrics.
This album runs the whole gamut of human emotion and this is in part due to the finely observed vocals and the superbly sympathetic vocals, in fact it is an immersive album, one you need to listen to and lose yourself in for the whole hour.
Fish on Friday are steadily building themselves a strong following, and you can see why on records as uniformly strong as this, and the calibre of their guests shows the quality of the band.
This is a fine successor to a great album, and should push Fish on Friday up there to where they belong.