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Tangent; The: A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two

The real proof that a band has a distinctive sound, is when they can completely change their approach and yet still be exactly who they are. Welcome to the ever evolving, but reassuringly static world of The Tangent. For while A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two is nothing like its predecessor, Le Sacre Du Travail, which in turn is little like it's older brother Comm, it still sounds exactly like the band it is. Whether through the unmistakable trembling voice of The Tangent mainman Andy Tillison, the manner in which the guitar and keys intertwine, or the use of melody as a basis for more adventurous outbursts and (ahem) tangents, there's only one band who could have produced this, or indeed, any of these albums.

So why is ASITA-TMTDAV2 so different from ...Travail? Well in almost every way, song structures paired back to more simple attacks, an almost Prog Metal sheen added in places and a more ready acceptance of a Neo Prog side that The Tangent often leave behind. The subtitle to the album's name refers right back to 2003 and this band's debut of that name, Tillison revisiting the theme that Prog was on its last legs and admitting that in fact, it is rude health in terms of the music and bands themselves. However across the first half of the album Tillison explores his frustrations that the "Prog old guard" don't do enough to support, or promote the up and coming bands. It's an interesting idea and when you look at the lacklustre solo acoustic support acts that the likes of Marillion or Fish have dragged round in recent times, it is easy to see where he's coming from. However with John Wetton lending his support to youngsters District 97, Steven Wilson openly embraced by the likes of Yes and King Crimson, as he remixes and masters their back catalogue, or that the "grumpy old man" himself, Rick Wakeman, used to regularly play Karnataka, Mostly Autumn and a host of other "new" acts on his (admittedly, now long gone) radio show, then it's an assertion that's maybe a little unfair. Either way, it's an idea that's clearly got under Tillison's collar and inspired great moments such as "Codpieces And Capes", and "Clearing The Attic". However the album's epic (you knew it had to have one), shows up in the guise of the ever shape shifting "The Celluloid Road", a song centred round the idea that most of us in the UK base our ideas of what America is like from thoroughly exaggerated TV programmes, the lyrics referencing everything from Jack Bauer in 24 to the film Speed and much in between. It's an exhilarating ride taking in visits to stereotypical diners, and high speed trips on Greyhound buses via agents and terrorists; all delivered with an affection for the country being described and an understanding of how little understanding those outside America really have of what happens inside it.

With guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine) back in the fold, A Spark... has a, well, spark (sorry) that the previous The Tangent album seemed to, with hindsight, lack. Tillison's keyboards and vocals seem to feed off it eagerly, as bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings) does likewise, taking the lead on numerous occasions, but only when the song needs it. Add in the talents of Theo Travis (Steven Wilson) and drummer Morgan Agren, who are both faultless from beginning to end and I'd go as far as to suggest that the current line-up of this band may well be the best of its many configurations. How long it will last, who knows? But let's just make the most of it while we can.

A Spark In The Aether finds The Tangent firing bullishly on all cylinders and with a strut and poise not always seen from this band. Is it their best? Well that depends which chameleon like side of them you enjoy most. However there's little if anything to even nitpick over here and I'd suggest that not only will The Tangent fans simply lap this album up, but so will lovers of beautifully, but exuberantly crafted Progressive Rock of any colour.

Track Listing
1. A Spark in the Aether
2. Codpieces and Capes
3. Clearing the Attic
4. Aftereugene
5. The Celluloid Road
6. A Spark in the Aether (Part 2)
7. San Francisco Radio Edit (Bonus)

Added: July 2nd 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Tangent online
Hits: 3011
Language: english

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Tangent; The: A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-07-02 15:54:57
My Score:

Just looking at the front cover of The Tangent's latest opus A Spark In The Aether, you just know this is going to be a progressive rock album. All kidding aside, Andy Tillison has outdone himself this time, making what will certainly be one of the best albums of 2015.

For the last twelve years, The Tangent have delivered one great album after another beginning with the stellar The Music That Died Alone released in 2003. Over a decade later Tillison has decided to revisit that theme and release volume two. What could be better than this, a progressive rock album about progressive rock. Sound confusing? Well, the music is anything but.

Like all Tangent albums the line-up is a little different than the one before. New member Morgan Εgren of Kaipa replaces Gavin Harrison on the drum kit and Luke Machin takes over guitar duties from Jakko Jakkszyk. The rest of the players are Andy Tillison (vocals, keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass guitar) and Theo Travis (saxes and flutes).

Right off the bat the album hits its mark with the deliciously melodic title track with its Yes-like keyboard arrangement and tight rhythms. All the players are seriously locked into this optimistic slice of classic style prog.

It doesn't take long for the first epic to appear in the form of the five part "Codpieces & Capes". This one has everything classic prog fans would want; fantastic keyboards, Machin's wonderful fret work and an ever present bass line from Reingold. Full of rich dynamics, the song even ventures into heavy prog where Machin lays down some frantic soloing.

"Clearing The Attic" is probably the jazziest piece starting off in a pastoral light where Travis' flute takes on a whimsical mystique. Eventually Tillison's Hammond becomes more forceful and the rest of the band follow in tow, settling into a rocking groove.

In "Aftereugene", a playful reference to Floyd's "Careful With That Axe Eugene", there is a more atmospheric Pink Floyd feel as Travis really makes his presence felt with wonderful flute trills and wild saxophone outbursts. It is all very ethereal with a slightly darker tone.

The album's show stopping centerpiece is the twenty-one minute epic "The Cellular Road" where Tillison takes us on a road trip across America as seen from the confines of a television screen. This song ventures through a myriad of terrains and changing landscapes from pastoral instrumentation to heavier grooves, and everything in between. All the while, Tillison weaves a story through his patented half sung, half spoken approach.

I don't want to give too much away so I will leave the rest for you to discover. All I can say is this road trip through the history of progressive rock deserves the support of all progressive rock fans and is one of the best rock albums I have heard in 2015. An InsideOut Music production.

Tangent; The: A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-05-01 07:33:26
My Score:

In the 12 years they've been together, The Tangent have been quite busy, as their latest CD A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two is now their eight official release. I've rather enjoyed all of their material, and while this band perhaps isn't considered by most fans as one of the elite of the modern prog scene, they sure aren't far from it. Andy Tillison, Luke Machin, Jonas Reingold, Theo Travis, and Morgan Agren seem to extra inspired on this latest, as I sense a more urgent, upbeat attack on many of the songs, the keyboards more insistent, the guitars heavier, the drums more complex, and the bass...well, Reingold is a monster, so that aspect never changes. "Codpieces & Capes" rocks fairly hard, kind of like a marriage of The Flower Kings and Deep Purple, and the title track takes neo-prog into much heavier waters. It's not until "Clearing the Attack" that we hear the jazzy, Canterbury styled prog that The Tangent have always been known for come to the forefront, as lithe guitar lines from Machin weave around Tillison's melodic keyboards and Travis' endearing flute. "Aftereugene" blends Genesis styled pastoral prog with lazy jazz, and the epic 6-part "The Celluloid Road" zigs, zags, and weaves through 21 exciting minutes blending all the styles that are found throughout the previous songs, delivering quirky, adventurous, and exciting progressive rock.

Most importantly, these songs are catchy and instantly memorable, with the virtuoso instrumentation to back it all up. A winner? Yes indeed!

» Reader Comments:

Tangent; The: A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two
Posted by Steven Reid on 2015-05-01 07:19:08
My Score:

Thanks for spotting my brain freeze Robert, I've corrected that!

Tangent; The: A Spark In The Aether – The Music That Died Alone Volume Two
Posted by Robert Tauriello on 2015-04-26 10:17:17
My Score:

Good review, Steven.
One correction; Jonas Reingold is the bassist for TFK.

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