Long term CRS and Spirit favourites, who’ve treaded the boards at the good old HLC, Montgomery Hall & indeed the Wesleyan Centre at Maltby returned in August with their latest studio epic, Auto Reconnaissance, availble on CD, vinyl and download.
11 albums in, and Andy Tillisons progressive vehicle shows no signs of slowing down or running out of steam, as, with a line up that has stabilised around Tillisons unique keyboard sound and distinctive vocals, Jonas Reingolds bass, Luke Machin on guitars, Theo Travis on sax and flutes and Steve Roberts on drums, follows up 2018’s Proxy in fine form.
With the whole world in lockdown, the opening Life on Hold, written well before the Corona virus reared its ugly head, has become an unofficial anthem during this period, whilst its themes refer back to Andy’s ongoing analysis of technology and contemporary life.
Meanwhile in full on travelogue mode Andy has always enjoyed watching the world that he walks through and turns his eye to wherever he happens to be visiting at the time, in the vein of previous Tangent tracks like Down and Out, Jinxed in Jersey is an amusing narrative concerning a visit to New York when the Tangent were touring there, and see’s Andy take an alternative way to visit the Statue of Liberty via the real America rather than the standard tourist bits.
As any Tangent fan knows Andy has never been fond of taking the tourist route through anything, and with a passable American accent, some fantastic musical interludes from the band, as they take their cues from the city that Andy is describing, and it’s hard to single out any one star performer, as this line-up of the Tangent work so well together and bring everything they’ve got musically to the table, from soul to jazz and some sublime sax work from Theo Travis.
Sometimes you don’t need an epic to say all you need to say, and the most affecting and personal song on here is the ode to Andy’s partner, and someone who I’ve known for such a long time, Sally Collier, Under Your Spell is a beautifully written declaration of love from one wonderful human being to another, and this is a beautiful song that conveys the emotional impact of finding your soul mate.
The Tangent as a band are never afraid to cross genres and pull all elements of music into the mix, which for me is one of the reasons why I enjoy listening to their albums, and they are good at mixing new and old influences and that is shown on The Tower of Babel, one of the bands shorter songs, and again another set of well observed lyrics from Andy about drowning in electronic communication and the digital age. I’m also sure that Andy would have appreciated the irony in the fact that the video for this was completed in insolation with the band Zooming or their equivalent bits in together.
Auto Reconnaissance, which means self reflection, is the theme that runs through the longest song the Tangent have ever committed to tape, Lie Back and Think of England, a multi-part epic piece that is a sequel (of sorts) to Andy’s Brexit piece A few Steps down the wrong road’ from the Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery, Andy’s 18 minute observation of the divisive Brexit process, and as Andy notes in the sleeve notes here, Lie Back… is more a case of looking to pull together rather than be divided, and he returns to familiar themes, referencing and bringing together a closing chapter to one of his most emotive songs In Earnest (from 2006’s A Place in the Queue).
Again, turning his eye to the division that is sown through social media, and how the algorithms drive division as it’s better for the money, this is a massive piece of social reflection, that goes from everywhere like Brexit, Climate change where and what exactly England is now, and all accompanied by a genre hopping piece of music that pulls in classic prog sounds, Canterbury sounds, again utilising all the colours in the musical palette, with some sublime soloing from Travis, Machin and Tillison throughout the piece, not to mention more reflective Uilleann Pipes soloing from Matt Steady, which adds another haunting touch to one of Andy’s most reflective pieces.
As this is an immersive piece, it is worth digging deep and giving it a few listens for it to really hit home.
The album finishes on a high with the Midas Touch being another piece of sublime smooth jazz and soul funk and closing what is a superb album.
Ever since Le Sacre Du Travail Andy has been on a real musical roll, and this album is the latest in a long line of fantastic Tangent albums, and is, dare I say it, a genuine contender for album of the year.