Monday, January 30, 2012

The Tangent - COMM

The Tangent
COMM
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Despite the high acclaim The Tangent receive with every new release from within the progressive rock scene and the fact that the band have throughout the years boasted some big names within their line-up (Most notably various members of The Flower Kings and Beardfish), I’ve never been their biggest fan. The band’s former releases have had their moments, but I’ve yet to find an album from the band that has retained a consistency from start to finish. So when it was announced that vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Andy Tillison had assembled a new line-up of The Tangent and recorded a new album, I can’t so that I was expecting anything radically new. But to my complete surprise, it appears that with their seventh release ‘COMM’, Tillison and The Tangent (Who at the time comprised of Concrete Lake guitarist/vocalist Luke Machin, bassist/vocalist Jonathan Barrett, saxophonist/flutist Theo Travis and drummer Nick Rickwood) have actually put together a rather enjoyable release this time around.
As expected, The Tangent begins the album with a lengthy number - the twenty minute epic ‘The Wiki Man’. Broken into six suites, ‘The Wiki Man’ boasts several shifts in musical soundscapes and tempos, with some of the band’s jazz influences taking centre stage in place of their predominantly ‘70’s influenced progressive rock staple sound. Song wise, ‘The Wiki Man’ is well constructed, and surprisingly enough doesn’t seem anywhere near as long as it’s running time suggests (Which is something of a rarity for past epics from The Tangent), while the guitar work from Machin adds another dimension to The Tangent’s rather keyboard dominated sound. Lyrically, Tillison has always been interesting, and ‘The Wiki Man’ is no exception, with the song laying down a theme (Communication and technology of the modern world) which is carried on throughout the whole album in one form or another. But in terms of vocals, Tillison’s voice has always been the sticking point in the past. But in part with a stronger emphasis on quality song structure, on ‘The Wiki Man’, his vocals here don’t seem to irritate as much as they have done in the past - which is a pleasant surprise to say the least.
After an epic opener, the next three songs are relatively short in comparison, with ‘The Mind’s Eye’ sounding a little more guitar orientated and rock like in its delivery, and decidedly more complex and progressive based than the original version that appeared on the band’s live C.D./D.V.D. set ‘Going Off On Two’ from earlier in the year.
Elsewhere, Barrett takes on the lead vocals for the slower paced/latter day Pink Floyd-like ballad ‘Shoot Them Down’ (Which features some great guitar work from Machin), while the Jethro Tull meets E.L.P. ‘Tech Support Guy’ is a great light-hearted shorter song that one of the album’s real gems.
Finishing up the album is ‘Titanic Calls Carpathia’, which not unlike the opener, is a sixteen minute epic that is as every bit as strong as the opener both musically and lyrically, and just as eclectic with touches of rock, jazz and the orchestral drifting in and out throughout.
As I mentioned earlier, The Tangent haven’t really grabbed me in the past quite like other progressive groups. But with ‘COMM’, the band have really outdone themselves on every level, and have crafted what is easily the strongest album they’ve produced to date, and their first to actually sound like an album from The Tangent, rather than a carbon copy of their peers.

For more information on The Tangent, check out - http://www.thetangent.org/

© Justin Donnelly