Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Tangent - Le Sacre Du Travail – An Electric Sinfonia By Andy Tillison

The Tangent
Le Sacre Du Travail – An Electric Sinfonia By Andy Tillison
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

Despite plenty of success and critical acclaim over their decade long existence, it was The Tangent’s 2011 release ‘COMM’ that brought the long running outfit some well deserved attention outside their existing fan base.  It’s been two years since that release, and as expected, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Andy Tillison is back with a new line-up of The Tangent, and a new album in ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’, in celebration of their tenth anniversary.
Described as a soundtrack without the film and orchestral with no orchestra, ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’ (Which is French for ‘The Coronation Of Work’) is The Tangent’s first foray into a conceptual album – or as Tillison himself has coined – ‘An Electric Sinfonia By Andy Tillison’.
Based around the everyman concept of ‘the nine to five daily grind’ (Eating, sleeping and working), ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’ is lyrically the sort of album that most will be able to relate to. But while The Tangent have always been able to offer themes that most can identify with, it’s the band’s rather eclectic take on the progressive rock sound that has turned some listeners off. But fortunately, the direction Tillison steered The Tangent towards on ‘COMM’ has been kept, with the band’s latest effort easily of the same high standard.
The Tangent (Who aside from Tillison, comprise this time of Big Big Train vocalist David Longdon, vocalist/guitarist Jakko M. Jakkszyk (Robert Fripp/Level 42), saxophonist/flutist/clarinet player Theo Travis (Steve Wilson/Robert Fripp/No-Man), The Flower Kings/Karmakanic bassist Jonas Reingold and Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison) open up the album with ‘Coming Up On The Hour (Overture)’, which is the first movement of the five piece suite that makes up the conceptual piece ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’. Beardfish front man Rikard Sjoblom more than sets the scene for the story with some clever narration, while the band provide the backing track that’s equal parts classic vintage progressive rock and orchestral – albeit without an actual orchestra.
The second movement ‘Morning Journey & The Arrival’ is quite a lengthy piece at nearly twenty-three minutes, but has more than enough ideas and a flow that allows the song to work for the most part. The song is somewhat difficult to describe as it moves from scene to scene and from theme to theme several times over its duration, but the rockier section around the nine minute mark is well done, while the light jazz vibe of the song around the seventeen minute mark is another favourite moment worthy of a mention (Especially the full-on progressive rock/guitar solo work around the nineteen minute mark).
The third movement ‘Afternoon Malaise’ is another lengthy effort (Running for close to twenty minutes), and initially starts out with a rather avant-garde/jazz instrumental piece before locking into something that resembles a structured song. Again, describing the various movements within ‘Afternoon Malaise’ is no easy task; Harrison’s drumming on the instrumental passages is a clear stand out, as too is Travis’ saxophone playing. Unfortunately, in terms of actual song structures, some of the vocals are a little jarring in places with the spoken word delivery that’s typical of The Tangent, but given how infrequent the actual song pieces occur within this movement, it’s only a minor drawback.
The piano/orchestral based instrumental fourth movement ‘A Voyage Through Rush Hour’ provides the album (And the listener for that matter) with a much needed short break, before the finishing up the album’s conceptual side with the final movement ‘Evening TV’. Unlike the song structures within ‘Afternoon Malaise’, ‘Evening TV’ is quite melodic and memorable, and boasts plenty of harmony vocals that are far easier on the ear. Musically, the track is also winner, with the song’s Genesis influenced take on the progressive rock sound fitting well with The Tangent musical direction and somewhat bleak lyrical stance.
Outside of the conceptual piece, the album also has an additional three tracks, with the first being ‘Muffled Epiphany’. This piano based lounge/jazz track sounds more like an unused outtake recorded during the album sessions, but an outtake that works as a standalone track.
Next up is the rather short minute and sixteen second ‘Hat’, which is supposed recorded live at Mexborough School way back in 1979 (Which is quite a departure for the band given it’s punk rock like direction and energy), and finished up with a radio edit of ‘Evening TV’ (Which is as you would expect, something that’s likely to be listened to once).
Although The Tangent has never been one of my favourites from the progressive rock scene, I did enjoy what the band offered up on ‘COMM’ a couple of years ago. So I was hoping to see the band maintain the same high standard with their follow-up release. And sure enough, ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’ managed to live up to my expectations. Sure, it’s far from a perfect release, but it’s definitely one of the band’s more rewarding and consistent releases.

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

© Justin Donnelly