Twelve years, eight studio albums, two live DVDs and tours that have taken them from Moscow to Quebec. Now one of the most enduring third wave progressive rock bands on the scene returns - a band that has never made an album using the same personnel as the previous album. In fact, the same lineup has (to date) never been used twice.
But there are regulars. And some of the favorite regulars are back for the 8th album: Flower Kings bass legend Jonas Reingold; the ever-faithful and gifted Theo Travis, familiar to many from his work with the Steven Wilson band, Gong and Robert Fripp, with his arsenal of wind textures from saxophones to flutes; and the return to the fold of the amazingly talented Luke Machin, a guitar hero for a new generation who can even wow the old generations (and who also fronts his own band, Maschine). And of course there's band leader Andy Tillison (keyboards and vocals), the only member of the band to have played on all the records.
This team is joined by Morgan Ågren, Swedish drumming phenomenon who can even count Frank Zappa among his previous jobs (others include, but not limited to, Kaipa, Devin Townsend, and his own acclaimed Mats/Morgan Band). Morgan introduces to The Tangent a real live energy full of inspiration and eccentricity.
The band, who were only supposed to make one single album in 2003, are now back with their eighth! A Spark In the Aether is a joyous and uplifting romp that sees the band concentrating on their forté: delivering driving, melodic, thoughtful and inspired songs with a large grin on their faces as they do it.
"Using protest, sadness and negative images in music is a part of an artist's job" says Andy Tillison, "and it's something we have often done. But every so often I think we need to turn to the music itself and remember why it is we get so much from it. On this album I just wanted us to play - have fun, make music and mischief that can be enjoyed just for the sake of it"
So, twelve years further down the line, after albums about dystopian societies, midlife crises, alienation, homelessness and communications - the Tangent return to the very beginning and once again celebrate The Music. You are invited to join in.
More about “A Spark In The Aether”
The new album is subtitled "The Music That Died Alone Volume 2". This of course is a reference to the band's debut album - the first album to actually be ABOUT progressive rock music itself.
"It's inevitable that one day we'd have to return to that theme and look at what's happened to the scene in the years that have passed since. I mean, there I was in 2002 worried that the musical form was going to die out and here I am 12 years later watching a new generation of musicians setting off on the big trip"
Although the new album is 100 percent Classic Tangent - there are some new sources of inspiration and style...
"I've always really liked what the Americans did with Prog Rock" says Andy, "They do it slightly differently from us Europeans,putting as much emphasis on the ROCK bit as the "Prog". Looking at bands like Spock’s Beard, Mars Hollow, Heliopolis, Kansas, Boston and further into stuff like Steely Dan has been a major change from the ultra-English Tangent precedent. If you'll pardon the pun, we wanted it to sound quite literally "Trans-Atlantic". Which probably means we have invented Progressive Rock Music for the Azores."
In fact one chunk of the album, "The Celluloid Road", shows a new funk-laden, brass-section-toting romp across an imaginary America where all the landmarks on the journey are provided by famous films and TV series. Calling on influences far outside the normal prog rock base, the Tangent are referencing Earth Wind & Fire, Isaac Hayes, Steely Dan and Tower Of Power as much as their normal "Canterbury In Exile" palette. The electronic symphony orchestras of "Le Sacre Du Travail" are nowhere to be seen - instead the standard 5 piece rock band are the heart and drive of this whole album, only joined by the "brass section" for the epic track.
Still operating under the premise of being separated by distance but brought together by communications technology, the band who surprised people by pioneering digital distance recording 12 years ago have now turned the process into an accepted norm. The album was recorded in 4 different locations in 2 different countries, and yet the members had as much fun in its creation as they have any album made "together". The group toured together in 2014 and the camaraderie that developed in that time enabled the musicians to work together effectively across distances.
"There is a backlash from some people these days about using technology, computers and the internet to make music. I understand those views but I remain as positive about it now as when we were pioneering this way of working. To quote Neil Peart "All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted...... it's just a question of your honesty". That's been a guiding light to me - a manifesto if you like since day 1. Sure.. digital art CAN be cold, but it's not in any way a general or inevitable characteristic in my view."
Is The Tangent just Andy Tillison and session musicians?
It's a question that is often asked. Of course, The Tangent's line-up has constantly changed and can often communicate a view that seemingly answers the question.
"No it is emphatically NOT" says Andy. "I don't just hire people because they are good. I hire them because I like who they are as well as what they can do. I want them to have ideas, bring stuff to the table that I hadn't put there. They get a pretty free run at interpreting my music. I provide them with working demos of the songs. They don't have to play what I played. My normal instructions are very few, the main one being "Keep The Flavour". That's a very open to interpretation instruction, and I've been very happy, delighted, surprised, astonished and sometimes aghast at the results that this has produced. On the new album everyone played what THEY wanted to play. Sometimes they followed my leads, sometimes they went right off on - er.. a Tangent. Luke Machin wrote ALL of his own guitar parts for this album. He listened to mine, decided which bits he was going to include and which bits he was going to change. He changed most of it. He added loads of stuff, new chords, melodies, sounds, riffs, leads. But he kept the flavour. Every single thing he submitted, every last note is on the album. There was no cutting room floor for this album. for anyone. Nothing got "sent back" There were no "that wasn't what I wanted" moments. Luke got heavily involved in the mixdown way beyond the call of duty implied by the idea that this might be me and some session guys.”
The new album is a Rock Album. It's a Prog album. It's a Funky album. It's a Pop album. It's the Eighth Tangent album.