THE TANGENT - Auto Reconnaissance
What started out as an all-star prog band in 2003 turned out to become one of the most reliable bands in the world of progressive rock music. At first The Tangent featured Andy Tillison and Guy Manning, the main people behind Parallel Of 90 Degrees, as well as David Jackson (ex-Van Der Graaf Generator) plus Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold and Zoltan CsŲrsz, all courtesy of The Flower Kings. Since then the line-up changed over time, crystallising into Andy Tillison (keyboards, vocals) as main songwriter accompanied by guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine), bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), drummer Steve Roberts (David Cross Band) and woodwinds player Theo Travis (Soft Machine). Every self-respecting prog rock fan should be delighted at such a great line-up.
And yet one should not forget that The Tangent is mostly Andy Tillisonís musical vision, and he is inspired from old prog, new prog and other genres like jazz and electro. Add to this his archetypically British vocals with a distinguished gentleman inflection that you either like or end up being annoyed by. Fortunately I am in the former camp.
Auto Reconnaissance is already the bandís eleventh studio longplayer (I have given up on counting semi-official live bootlegs and Tillisonís self-released side and solo projects), with there never having been a break longer than two years between records. The album starts with its first single, Life On Hold, which at five and a half minutes is rather short for The Tangent. The song shows the band from its most accessible side, and the catchy chorus makes sure that this is the perfect introduction to the album. The following Jinxed In Jersey is a sixteen minute long travelogue about being lost in New York city, coming with tons of lyrics and a jazzy inflection, although there is also an electronic part with breakbeat-y drum programming. Itís a fun song listening to the first few times, but once you get to know the story, it might grow old on you. The following Under The Spell is a cheesy ballad that owes more to George Michael than to progressive rock. Everyone has the right to try that once, but in my opinion this is a skippable moment.
The following three tracks repeat the sequence of the preceding three. The Tower Of Babel has also been pre-preleased as a single and is the only track under five minutes. Itís rousing soul chorus, complete with brass section, makes this an atypical but exceptionally pleasant adventure. Lie Back & Think Of England is another long track, at twenty-eight minutes a downright behemoth, and borrows the pastoral atmosphere of Genesisí Supperís Ready with the drama of Van Der Graaf Generator circa Still Life. The latter is especially emphasised by Theo Travisí great performances on flutes and saxophones. The Midas Touch is another mellow track, with a chill funk flair, not that band at their best, but still quite ok in its idiosyncratic way. Proxima is a twelve minute bonus track that reminds me of Exo-Oceans from The Tangentís previous album Proxy. That song was an excerpt of another long track from Tillisonís side solo project Kalman Filter. Proxima is a mix between Berlin school / cosmic music and a jam with band elements. Not truly essential, but I keep wondering if this will turn up on one of the artistís countless non-label releases.
There is a lot of light and a little shade on Auto Reconnaissance. It is definitely not the bandí best effort, but still full of great material, especially the two singles and the half-hour centre piece. Even if I only give 8/10 this time, The Tangent are still my favourite current progressive rock band.