A SPARK IN THE AETHER: THE MUSIC THAT DIED ALONE, VOLUMETWO THE TANGENT Inside Out U.S. (21 April 2015) Band: Andy Tillison: keyboards & vocals Luke Machin: guitar Jonas Reingold: bass Theo Travis: saxes & flutes Morgan Agren: drums
The rave reviews are starting to come in. And yes, there’s no real reason of worth or merit that gives me leave to review THE TANGENT’s new album (or any album for that matter). I have zero musical aptitude myself. I can’t “carry a tune,” play an instrument, or really understand rhythm, melody, or much else. I have a blog only because any albino three-toed sloth can have a blog. I post these “reviews” (air quotes, real quotes, ontological & metaphysical quotes) because they’re fun to write and my California best-friend enjoys them (or says he does).
But if I ever wanted, truly wanted, to review an album—THIS would be the one!
I just wish now I wasn’t “on record” (well, “record” for the three or so that read this blog) as saying earlier this year that the BEST ALBUM of 2015 was already a “fait accompli” with John Mitchell’s brilliantly stunning LONELY ROBOT, PLEASE COME HOME. But after hearing Tillison & company the “Robot” may have to settle for the silver medal.
I know that even though most readers (my “three” again) eschew reading track by track commentary I nonetheless want to share some thoughts.
Track 1: A SPARK IN THE AETHER (4:20)
What a smart “call” to open the album with this grand and soaring instro (for the first 1:12 or so) which then delivers a killer chorus of the earwig variety! A driving and surging middle and end propels the rest of the disc onward and upward. An A/A+ track.
Track 2: CODPIECES AND CAPES (12:34)
This 5-part mini-epic is, well, EPIC! Shredding guitar riffs by Luke Machin, a chiaroscuro maelstrom of synth/keys and drums, and some biting bitterness in the lyrics make this lengthy song both complex and compelling. An ultimate rating of A++
Track 3: CLEARING THE ATTIC (9:35)
Okay by now I’m just shaking my head in incredulity. Each of the first three tracks ALONE (by themselves) is worth the full price of the album. The soft flute of Theo Travis entrances the listener for the first 30 seconds or so before the keys and drums kick in. Morgan Agren is rock solid on the drums and Tillison…well, more on him in due course. The track has a nice middle section that is jazzy and fusion sounding which almost flirts with a Bossa Nova vibe. The song mixes funk with flutes in a Mahavishnu Orchestra maestro/musicianship tapestry. Tillison’s masterful compositional skills give us another A++
Track 4: AFTEREUGENE (5:47)
A tasteful flamenco-style acoustic solo starts the track and is soon joined by flute and keys. At the 2:20 mark the song morphs into a Floydian space-scape with almost a minor hint of MEDDLE like sonar pings. This wonderful homage to Waters, Gilmore & company has but one spoken lyric: “careful with that sax” and then trails off with a Coltrane like wailing. A+ rating (catching the trend?)
Track 5: THE CELULOID ROAD (21:37)
This is the albums piece de resistance. This 6-part analysis of American media culture (movies & television) is classic jazz/prog fusion but also art of the highest order. This is a tune worthy to be played with SUPPER’S READY. Vibraphone synths, Reingold & Agren jamming out with Frontiere/Schifren referenced TV scoring, and some of the finest lyrics I’ve heard in decades ensures this song will be listened to repeatedly and with total attention each time. Is Tillison fairly critiquing American consumerism and the Potemkin facades of hedonistic hypocrisy? Is he cynical and almost vicious in a schadenfreude voyeurism? No. Tillison has penned a love letter. This is a tender and yet muscular elegy to the ideals and idea of America and the entertainment (Hollywood, Broadway, and Tin-Pan Alley) hopes and dreams, as well as the actual physical grandeur, of the continent. His words demonstrate an inner hurt yes, but also a truly sympathetic prayer for a land and its exports in wonder that have enriched and bedazzled so many Britons and Europeans over the last 70 years.
Track 6: A SPARK IN THE AETHER PART TWO (8:16)
After the prior magnum opus, The Tangent is almost showing off how incredibly good they all are. This is the perfect coda to a noir-like movie of loss and redemption. The soft and jazz piano opening builds to a deep and cavernous classical jazz/prog finale. Reingold gives the best bass for the last song and Tillison is so beautiful in his playing that calling him the Mozart of Prog is not hyperbole. As the chorus comes back again at the close the listener is surrounded by triumphant closure.
This loosely fitting but tightly knit (a dynamic tension of paradoxical poetry) concept masterpiece will be remembered years from now alongside CLOSE TO THE EDGE, SELLING ENGLAND BY THE POUND, THICK AS A BRICK, and IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING. It’s that good. Its almost “Future-Shock” like cornucopia of sounds and ideas overwhelms the senses leaving the listener with a silly smile and the urge to literally standup and applaud when the album is over.
A sui generis aural epiphany! Thank you Messrs: Tillison, Machin, Reingold, Agren, and Travis.
Mellotron set to 11