Review Summary: This amazing album mixes progressive rock, jam band music and even jazz to create an outstandingly interesting CD that many people could enjoy.
As this amazing band has no reputation on this website, I figured I’d write this review to spread the word. The Tangent is an extremely interesting mix of many genres of rock and other music which started as a collaborative side project formed by Andy Tillison and Sam Baine (Parallel or 90 Degrees) as well as Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Roine Stolt) and many other progressive musicians. (see Wikipedia article for more info). The band was an instant success in the progressive genre and they were subsequently signed to InsideOut Music (Riverside, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, Spock’s Beard, Umphree’s McGee). Apparently after the first effort, The Music That Died Alone, Andy Tillison became the chief writer for the band and he kept the name. Since then he has released The World We Drive Through and the latest, A Place In The Queue.
This latest effort is perhaps the most cohesive and interesting that the band has released and features the following musicians. (All music written by Tillison)
Andy Tillison- Organ, Synthesizers, Piano, Principal Vocals
Sam Baine- Piano, Synth and Vocals
Jonas Reingold- Bass Guitar
Theo Davis- Saxophones, Flute, Clarinet, Vocals
Guy Manning- Acoustic Guitars, Assorted Overdubs, Vocals
Jaime Salazar- Drums
Krister Jonsson- Electric Guitar
As these songs are massively long, I hope I don’t bore you with this track by track.
Main Disc Length- 78:54
In Earnest (20:03) Tillison – This first epic is a very slow start to the album with some piano and flute and acoustic guitar during the first part. Lyrics are very strange here, explaining things about a pilot of some sort and tell a story without following verses or choruses. Two and a half minutes in we get into the fast stuff, containing a great bassline and multiple piano parts. The Tangent is defiantly more keyboard-based rock than guitar as seen here. Instrumentals everywhere on this CD are absolutely virtuoso and the layering is outstanding. The piano parts are quite similar to the virtuoso work of piano and synthesizer players in the US jam band scene.
Those concerned with under representation of non keyboard instruments do not fear because there many extremely great wind instrument, bass, drum and guitar work on this CD as well. Once this song gets going it is an excellent tune, utilizing literally 50 different parts instead of verse and chorus traditions. One of the only detractions at first from this music is perhaps the lyrics which are really more comical than interesting (Tillison does have a British accent). This song is nearly always upbeat and happy sounding, utilizing a variety of different musical styles along with excellent use of dynamics to keep the flow going. At times, it seems like 20 instruments are playing instead of just six or seven (which is already more than most bands). It truly is something you have to hear for yourself to understand the virtuosity of the musicianship and song structure. It seems like a quick song even at twenty minutes long and just as enjoyable as 5 or 6 regular length tracks. 4.5/5
Lost In London (8:08) Tillison/Manning- Those who are daunted by the twenty minute track one can start here with this catchy elevator/jazz feeling song. Beginning with some keyboards and clean guitar, you can tell this will be a great song. A flute melody follows and then the catchy vocals. This verse is carried by a solid bassline and a good drum beat until a louder instrumental part which contains soaring flute and big synthesizer. Once again, Tillison proves to be a master composer, never making this song repetitive.
The flute and wind instruments really stand out on this more laid back track as well as the groovy bassline and melodic guitar. Lyrics here are quite a bit less comical than track one. About a third the way through, the song gets heavier, utilizing many layers of keyboards and some slide guitar. About halfway through, all the instruments fall out in a cacophony of sound that is really quite strange but it doesn’t really deter because the next part is just as chilled out as the first half. A sweet keyboard solo follows up into a spectacular flute solo that is very jazzy sounding. After this part, it goes back to the verse and it’s only after this happens that you know just how effective the middle section was. The track finishes after a short jam with many keyboards. Overall, one of the most cohesive and catchy songs here and something almost everyone can enjoy. 5/5
DIY Surgery (2:17) Tillison/Middleton- This song is quite comical as you can tell from the title. It is really quite good filler with a good main motif along side some tight bass fills and a flute solo. It does its job well at breaking up the tracks. 4/5
GPS Culture (10:07) Tillison- This starts out with a rather silly sounding piano motif that is all over the place and is then followed by the rest of the instruments in a cool louder part. This song does follow verse/chorus structure but it is really quite interesting nonetheless. The verse continues to use that first silly keyboard motif interspersed with cool bass fills and the chorus even sees us with some very slight distortion from the guitars. Background vocals are also quite comical but nonetheless this song is pretty solid. The first bridge is quite cool, utilizing dark jazz sounding piano and bass (the bass parts on this album really are quite awesome, one of the highlights for me). Lyrics have to deal with the culture of today’s world with cell phones, commercialism, advertisement, technology and the like. Some good lyrics here are.
“We think we know that riff but where in the world did we ever here that nagging tune”
The above part is really quite funny because the bridge uses the first 3 notes of a riff (probably Crème’s Sunshine for My Love) that we’ve all heard before. After this bridge, things quiet down slightly and it goes into some dark acoustic guitar assisted by some percussion and then some more silly sounding piano. A cool bass solo part follows, aided by some more piano and synth and after that a slide guitar. This song does quite a good job at featuring every instrument such as another flute solo and virtuoso playing of nearly every instrument. Once this part cools down, we are treated with some tight electric guitar work and then some more silly female background vocals which serves as a good transition back into the verse and chorus parts. Once you can get past the silliness of this song it really is quite good because it utilizes each instrument effectively and equally. It also gives us some good social commentary. 4.5/5
Follow Your Leaders (9:21) Tillison- Those that thought that Tillison could only write happy stuff think again. This song begins with some dark synthesizer with a much harder edge followed by some great guitar work and awesome bass work. It isn’t that dark for long because it goes into a section using a quick piano motif that remains through out the verse. A quick bassline takes over as the driving force for the verse aided by cool guitar work. Lyrics here are truly good, enlightening us on the views of Tillison on things such as trends and the like. The chorus here is pretty good even though it is rather sudden, using slightly distorted guitar. After the first chorus we are treated to a great flute solo and then it’s back into the first riff. Instrumentals here are once again extremely good. After a few choruses they go into the bridge which uses some Mars Volta–ish electronic effects as well as cool bassline and keyboards.
The bridge extends into a dissonant sounding interlude which serves as a good transition into another verse. After another chorus, we are treated with a grandiose and epic guitar solo which is quite a nice break from the keyboards. The solo is backed up well by organ and a good steady drum beat and bass. Once the solo is over, most instruments fall out and we are left with some wind ambience and some flute and organ followed by a drum solo for a truly different and cool ending which transitions spectacularly into the next song. Overall, this is an awesome song with superb lyrics and instrumentals. 5/5
The Sun In My Eyes (3:44) Tillison- Please tell me why this awesome song isn’t on the radio. Beginning with a catchy as hell guitar riff and followed by perfect organ and bass, this song is something. Bass lines here are awesome and the verse is catchy, utilizing every instrument well. The chorus shows some good wind instrument and string instrument work which transition into the verse. A synthesizer solo also proves to be a great transition into an awesome bridge which uses some string work and guitar work. The interlude that follows is just as catchy as the following verse. The ending has some great bass fills and even cooler organ and guitar work. If you don’t like this song you are probably the strangest person I will never meet. 5/5
A Place In The Queue (25:19) Tillison/Travis- If you thought my In Earnest review was not substantial enough for its length then I’m going to try to make up for it with this. This masterpiece begins with a drum roll and some epic sounding guitar and organ work which then transition into a quieter part which features some acoustic guitar. Just like In Earnest, this song has literally like 50 different parts and it is nearly impossible to dissect each part. The verse is quite slow and at parts it has some off tone chords and at others it uses some cool elevator music piano. After a strange break which contains some strange and incoherent, low, spoken vocals, the second verse commences along with the first chorus. At times this song is beautiful and at others it is rather dissonant but the structure is very good and it doesn’t get too repetitive.
Some standouts of this first part are the strange wind instrument solos which are quite dark sounding and interesting. Drum work here is also quite standout as well as the bass and organ work. After this solo the guitar takes over the main part and it is back into the vocals. Lyrics in this song are quite interesting because Tillison is talking about life as a long story and how a lot of things are corrupt. Once the vocals die out there is a quieter part with only some piano and synthesizer. However, they jump right back into the vocals, this time much more catchy with a great bassline and cool guitar work followed by some sweet synthesizer and background vocals. Whereas most of the rest of this song is fairly disjointed, this part works wonderfully. Another wind instrument solo soon follows and then a quieter part with vocals. The lyrics here are rather happier which transitions perfectly into the refrain which is quite epic and cool sounding. Just when you think the song might be ending, they jump right back into the previous verse and then one more epic refrain. This time you think its over right" No.
This second refrain is followed by a synthesizer scale and some more instrumentals this time with some orchestral work. A funky drop off or two leads into a sweet synthesizer solo, followed by more instrumentals then some more of that funky verse. After this, we are treated to some elevator music piano aided by a great groovy bassline and then an awesome keyboard solo which all transition into an epic instrumental containing even more layers of synthesizers. Once you think the song is going to come its climax, the instruments drop off again for some more quiet piano and one more verse follows. The subsequent instrumental section contains excellent saxophone work which transitions epically into the final refrain. This song truly is an epic journey and has some great lyrics to boot. This title track proves to be a fantastic way to finish the album. 5/5
The Bonus Disc is excellent as well, containing 43 minutes more of music.
Bonus Disc Length- 43 minutes
Promises Were Made (7:26) Baine/Tillison- This song is great and is only a bonus track because it is considerably different from the first disc. Those that the first disc lacked a harder edge, you can find it here, along with some excellent guitar work. 4.5/5
The First Day At School (5:30) Tillison- A darker and more quiet tune. There is some orchestral string work here as well as mellow piano. Overall, very solid 3.5/5
Forsaken Cathedrals (4:54) Tillison- Another good track that is quite upbeat and utilizes some more wind work. Pretty catchy but probably wouldn’t have fit on the first CD. Great track nonetheless. 4/5
The Sun In My Eyes [Extended Mix] (9:12) Tillison- Already a fantastic tune, this song adds another 6 minutes to the wonderful song that was track 6 on the first CD. This has quite a bit of build up and some orchestral work but is nonetheless interesting. You will find every part of the first version on this, just in different places. Its not quite as catchy and does flow quite as well but it is excellent 4.5/5
Grooving On Mars LIVE (6:16) Travis
A neat and more ambient track, lacking vocals, that is quite neat. I haven’t had that much time to listen to it but it’s still pretty good. Mostly ambient music with a drumbeat and steady bassline. 3.5/5
Kartoff Im Unterseeboot (13:37) Tillison/Jonsson/Travis-
Once again, cool and laid back instrumental ambience. Again, a pretty solid track that can be quite interesting at points with some tribal drumming here and there and mostly wind noises here and there. 3.5/5
All in all, this album is amazing. It may take some time to grow on you with all the extra long songs but once you can distinguish between each one and start noticing all the superb instrumental layers you can really appreciate this excellent album. This is a great CD for anyone into progressive music, jam band music, jazz or for anyone looking for something really different. You will not find more bang for your buck anywhere else, especially if you get the bonus disc which adds 43 minutes to the already epic and 78 minute first CD.