Auto Reconnaissance by The Tangent

Release date: August 21, 2020
Label: InsideOut Music

The Tangent have been around for 18 years now. They are a band that have taken the progressive genre to a different level. Now despite the line-up changes, Andy Tillison is still going strong. With ten studio albums, five live albums, and two compilation albums in the can, it appears that The Tangent have made my eyes open more with their music to see what I was missing.

That and their eleventh studio album, Auto Reconnaissance, released this year on the InsideOut label, shows a different sound in The Tangent’s music. And for Tillison, he refuses to back down by going towards in a new direction by seeing where the yellow brick road lies waiting for him. You can hear the jazz/R&B influences, bossa-nova, pop, Canterbury, political standards, humour, prog, symphonic, funk, and a movie inside your head. This is Andy bringing everything to the kitchen table by cooking a non-stop meal that is strangely strange but oddly normal for the customers to dine on.

‘Jinxed in Jersey’ is The Tangent’s answer to Egg’s ‘A Visit to Newport Hospital’ from The Polite Force. Andy goes into some narration format on the character’s time between New York and New Jersey. Listening to this track, you can hear not just the textures between the Canterbury and bebop jazz genre, Tillison’s keyboards and Travis’ sax, takes you into those meetings of the characters of the people in the two cities.

And then it goes into this hard rocking approach which is completely unexpected for a couple of seconds before delving into a strange twist of George Gershwin and some electronic trip-hop vibrations while Andy honours Adrian Belew’s lyrical structures of ‘Thela Hun Ginjeet’. You follow Tilison by visiting the streets of the Big Apple and the Upper New York Bay of Liberty State park.

 

‘Under Your Spell’ is Tillison’s piano ballad by going into this soul/R&B groove. Andy shows his softer side to go beyond the symphonic approach before Luke Machin cries out to the heavens on his guitar. Part jazz, part blues, and part psychedelic that gives some sort of details on how you could’ve won the race. Machin delves into the heart of Wes Montgomery as Travis dances down the streets of Paris by becoming Dexter Gordon.

Opening track ‘Life on Hold’ sees Tillison going into this dreamy pop orientation with an uptempo sound of 10cc’s Godley & Creme meets Yes’ Close to the Edge-era. It’s quite a crossover texture as Jonas Reingold and Luke trade some workout sessions before reaching to the heavens as alarming synthesisers reaches towards the hallways of a gothic cathedral.

Tillison gets down to business on the Hammond organ as Luke lays down the funk a-la ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ style! I can imagine that Tillison is honouring Gershwin’s masterpiece by adding that brand new day to start your morning off with a delicious cup of coffee.

The 28-minute suite of ‘Lie Back & Think of England’ is Andy’s letter to his hometown by remembering the past and the present of the good old days from Andy’s childhood. It starts off with a rough and challenging section as it lifts our spirits up while Tillison and Travis share a bit of hope. But then, all hell breaks loose.

The sounds of the politicians, riots, and the labor party’s brainwashing its viewers on TV, it goes into this Orwellian nightmare on what we’re living in right now as Tillison describes it as if we’re “like living in a drama”. And we are by going through these risky and challenging times. But the signs of hope show up once more as Theo and Jonas share some of those pumped up volumes thanks to Luke’s melodic and heavy textures. What I love about Andy in this suite, is that he gives the members some leeway and free-rein in their improvisations. I believe that Jonas is playing a Rickenbacker Bass and he’s showing Travis some support as Andy comes in by making a soft landing.

The unexpected time changes comes marching in with a Zappa-sque atmosphere with some crossovers of Deodato and Greenslade’s organ work before going into the glam rock stomps of early Alice Cooper. And then Tillison sings French in the piece which took me by surprise that shows that he can sing differently. Suddenly, the mellotron, moog, and the rhythm section are in the middle of a thunderstorm as it changes into a folky-flamenco crisp with sliding guitars.

The finale on the last 8-minutes of the suite, sounds like Andy has finally returned home before chaos returns once more with guitar riffs and moog’s going into a hay-wiring effect and delving into a wacky yet mind-blowing stop-and go section. Both ‘The Tower of Babel’ and ‘The Midas Touch’ sees The Tangent walking into the opened doors of the Aja-era of Steely Dan and Steve Miller Band’s Fly Like an Eagle with some Motown grooves as the 12-minute bonus track ‘Proxima’ sees the band going into the waters of ambient music for the first three minutes of the piece.

Between Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra and Aphrodite’s Child’s 666, it transforms into this cat-and-mouse chase as the synths cry out into this cold and snowy night. That is when Tillison goes back to his keyboards with a Fusion Bo Hansson-sque groove as he brings it full circle. Theo and drummer Steve Roberts lay out the plans to see where Andy would like for them to go next.

Auto Reconnaissance was quite a challenge for me. The Tangent’s music is more than just a prog sound, but going beyond those structures. Whether you like the band’s music or not, Auto Reconnaissance may take some time to get into. For me, it took me a while, but now after two listens, I was very impressed to be on that adventure with Andy Tillison’s story structures.

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