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Tangent, The: Auto-Reconnaissance

You could be forgiven for thinking that The Tangent mainman Andy Tillison doesn’t much like modern life and yet the singer, songwriter and keyboard player has now for the eleventh time decided to illustrate this fact by delivering a rather uplifting body of work. This time it arrives under the guise of Auto-Reconnaissance, the first album from his band to feature the same line-up as the one before - bassist Jonas Reingold (Karmakanic/Steve Hackett), guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine), saxophonists Theo Travis (Steven Wilson/Soft Machine), and drummer Steve Roberts (ex-Magenta). And thoroughly ensconced in prog traditions, while having an unmistakably signature sound, they are, meaning that if this album sounds like one thing, it’s The Tangent.

“Life On Hold” sets the way, digging a groove that rails against online ‘life’, as we fail to realise that living through screens isn’t living at all. However, as you’ll have guessed, this is done so with a sing along chorus and a signature solo tradeoff where Machin lends his rather impressive guitar skills. Hence, allowing the rather tender piano and strum of “Under Your Spell” to be something of a smooth, jazzy surprise and while, surrounded by a host of more obviously progressive workouts, it can be somewhat overshadowed, hearing this heartfelt, and it feels, very true and honest story, is intriguing nonetheless.

Two other shorter tracks also appear, with “The Tower Of Babel” allowing Roberts to set the pace and tone through some wonderfully engaging hi-hat caresses, and yet the swing and sway that holds the melody couldn’t be any more free. Whereas “The Midas Touch” takes a flute laden swirl of almost 70s TV theme tune proportions and funks and souls it with a real authenticity. However, even with these classy offerings capturing the imagination it’s difficult not to sway towards this album’s epics, with “Lie Back And Think Of England”, which yearns for days of yore and a return to ‘freedoms’ of old, being a 28 minute exploration of Tillison’s homeland views and political ideals where much of England’s current choices are put in the spotlight and stomped upon quite vigorously. The songwriter has often had scorn poured upon his politically inspired outbursts and yet, I’m pleased to say, neither his ire, or anger has been dulled one bit as this track makes a point of missing no targets and apologising to no one along the way.

For me though, it’s “Jinxed In Jersey” that steals the show, a piece of conscience of mind poetry set to a jazzy, progressive background as Tillison simply tells the tale of a day where he set out, as a visitor to the city, to walk to The Statue Of Liberty. Finding himself on the ‘wrong side’ of the river this ‘Yorkshire kid in Jersey’ encounters all manner of locals who completely enrich the experience and outshine any kind of tourist trap. With Tillison recounting these meetings in spoken word ‘characters’, including really poor accents - acknowledged in the lyrics in asides such as ‘…the first guy I met was a cop, he had a gun and he scared the shit out of me, he asked what a guy from England “was doing here? Are you lost? You need to be on the other side of The Bay…” well, of course, his accent was a lot better than that… turned out to be a really nice guy…’ make this not only a completely engrossing experience that holds up superbly to repeat listens but one which has made me smile from ear to ear every time I’ve heard it. Add in some mad musical breakdowns as the songwriter ‘sneaks up' on his final destination from behind and immensely intricate instrumental passages throughout and, for me, this track is one of The Tangent’s best ever. And if you buy the limited version of this album you’ll also find the spacey trip of “Proxima” as a bonus where the sort of mind altering journey Steven Wilson used to serve up in early Porcupine Tree is revisited in some style.

For some, the weakness in The Tangent’s armour is what I see as a real strength, with the less than virtuosic vocals from Andy Tillison adding an honest, storytelling authenticity to these tracks that the best singer in the world couldn’t hope to match. When teamed up to some sumptuous musical forays like those you’ll find here, then the effect is really rather special.

Track Listing
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)

Added: September 20th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Tangent online
Hits: 941
Language: english

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