Monday, December 15, 2003

The Tangent—The Music that Died Alone (Inside/Out Music)
The liner notes say, “So how would it turn out if four English Nihilists teamed up with three Swedish Aquarians?” Pretty darn well. The Tangent is a project led by Andy Tillison, whom I’ve been aware of since he used to sell cassettes of Peter Hammill cover versions in Pilgrims fanzine. He’s gone on to release several albums with his band, Parallel or 90 Degrees. The Tangent is apparently one of those solo projects that got a little out of hand with the guest musos, so the sheer amount of star power involved (“star” being a relative term) garnered it a release on biggie Inside/Out Music. The Tangent are Tillison, Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt, and—gee whiz—David “Jaxon” Jackson, Van der Graaf Generator’s dark lord of the saxophone. Assorted Po90D personnel and Flower Kingers round out the lineup. This is a very good-humoured, enjoyable album—music about music, more than anything else. For instance, the second track, The Canterbury Sequence, is about the act of listening to music—the narrator digs Caravan and Hatfield and the North—and the sense of nostalgia it can produce, even if, like our narrator, you weren’t there at the time: “Feigned innocence and humour/Through my Walkman on a bike ride in the sun/My bicycle and I/we missed the party back in 1971.” The song is a mini-suite—all jazzy flutes and Hammond—that takes a detour through Hatfield and the North’s “Chaos at the Greasy Spoon” at mid-point. Three of the four songs are what I’d call epics, between 8 and 20 minutes. The exception is “Up-hill From Here,” clocking in at a breezy 7:11. This one gets up a good head of steam, and resolves into a super-catchy chorus/post-chorus/hook sequence that reveals some serious songwriting skills. It’s prog and all, and everybody gets to take a solo, but it’s not just a wank. I wish I could pin down who this song reminds me of. The Wonderstuff maybe? Anyway it stands out like a tuneful little island amidst the meandering subcontinents surrounding it. The last (title) track is a bring-down after the first three songs. It’s a little on the sleepy side, offering what could be an effective cultural commentary if it wasn’t presented in such a laid-back, MOR context: “We pay people to destroy us/in the media every day/So we’ll know our place and keep it/And never want to move away.” I’d prefer that the album didn’t end with a whimper, although I’m happy that it ended there, after 48 minutes. The Tangent don’t overstay their welcome, delivering a good dose of faith for the faithful in the process.

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