The Tangent – Auto Reconnaissance (Album Review)

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The musical genre known as Progressive Rock has distinguished itself for its constant seek of innovation, where the fusion of several musical approaches and genres allows artists to create unpredictable and substantial pieces of music. Prog (as it is usually called) has experienced a steady rise in its popularity, with many acts resembling the sound from the legendary era of the 70s and the early 80s. Some other take a different approach and to run away from such classification despite the unorthodox elements contained in their music. And then, there is The Tangent, a unique band that embraces an exciting concept of what “progressive music” is. 

With their 11th studio album called “Auto Reconnaissance”, the band led by singer and keyboardist Andy Tillison, showcase their idea that progressive rock is a living entity with a past, a present, and, more importantly, a future. On the same album, The Tangent  pays homage to the golden age of prog and surprise the listener by constantly presenting – with impressive cohesiveness – numerous and unexpected musical soundscapes. 

The long-awaited stability of the current The Tangent´s line-up plays a role in the cohesion and brilliance of this album. For the first time, the assembly from the previous effort is the same as in the new album. “Auto Reconnaissance” also marks the fourth occasion that Jonas ReingoldTheo Travis, and Luke Machin join Andy Tillison for a The Tangent record. Their musical chemistry is undeniable, and allows them to mix with astounding fluidity a plethora of musical ingredients that includes jazz, humor narrative, R&B, funk/soul, and pop, among others.  

With “Life on Hold”, The Tangent pays homage to the genre’s past in a tune pretty much serving up the aforementioned “classic prog” sound. Vintage synth effects, notable use of a Hammond organ, impressive bass lines, a catchy yet straightforward chorus, and an enjoyable rhythm come together in this opening cut, which truly delivers the goods. 

“Auto Reconnaissance” Album Artwork

Speaking of the unexpected turns that The Tangent loves to take, “Jinxed in Jersey” tells the true story of Andy Tillison‘s excursion to the Statue of Liberty while he was touring in New York. Fortunately for us, it did not come out as expected. The result is a hilarious and immersive, almost 16 minutes-long song. Instead of gracing the emblematic New York City, it depicts simple events and Andy´s casual encounters with local people from New Jersey. Despite being a narrative-driven song, the musical companionship is brilliant: a musical journey on itself which manages to take the listener through different sonic passages, at times smooth and jazzy and others heavier, dark, and edgy. 

Next up is another curve-ball. “Under Your Spell” is a beautiful R&B love song written from the bottom of Andy’s heart. The subtle piano tunes among Travis’ saxophone melodies and delicate guitar phrases create an enchanting atmosphere that finds its peak on the pleasing chorus. As a recent married person, this song speaks to me, as it will continuously inspire me to keep working on creating the best marriage that my wife and I can wish for.

At this point, it makes complete sense to compare The Tangent to a box of stuffed chocolates, because you never know what you are going to get next. “Tower of Babel” proves the adapted Forrest Gump´s saying, with the band exploring unique musical directions. With a funk groove that invites the listener to shake their extremities, brilliant solos and a memorable chorus, The Tangent take a cynical and sarcastic look into the use of technological advances by the impersonal, distant and cold bureaucracy and their automatas. Listening made me think about the fact that even though the ease to communicate nowadays are countless, it seems that people cannot still agree on anything, and that takes us to the next song. 

Photo by Sally Collyer

“Lie Back & Think of England” is a fruit of Andy’s initial rage towards the social and political direction taken by the British people when Brexit was decided and how it fractures them. However, as time passes and a different perspective is experienced, those initial feelings begin to change. The track is some sort of a union call that intends to surpass any existent division by inviting people to reconcile and forgive each other through proper communication and empathy. In the end, England is greater than whoever is in charge and any political decision taken. 

Clocking at 28 minutes, this cut is a tour-de-force that gives rise to The Tangent inexhaustible ability to push every boundary while setting free their vivid experimental edges. This is The Tangent’s type of prog at its finest. Unsuspected musical passages are constant, where every band member keeps pushing forward their musical traits a bit further. 

Even though “Lie Back & Think of England” is a piece about England, every listener could relate to it. We are from different parts of the world, but all of us face struggles, some of them derived from political decisions, and our countries are divided. The union of mankind is a shared necessity, and reconciliation is essential.  As a closing track, we find “The Midas Touch”. The exquisite bass phrases provided by Jonas are a delight on its own and conduct the listener through different musical patterns, depicting a soul and funky groove.

“Auto Reconnaissance” feels like the most personal album created by Andy Tillison yet, definitely portraying the vision of a unique group of artists that masterfully crafted a dazzling collection of songs. The listener is invited to take a look inside themselves and reflect about their own lives. It is a musical canvass about human nature; inviting to redefine who we are, what we would like to achieve, and how we relate with people, not only those close to us, but also with our neighbors. Art should make society better, and this album is up to the task. Bravo. 

Released by: Inside Out Music
Released Date: August 21st, 2020
Genre: Progressive Rock

Musicians:

  • Andy Tillison / Vocals, lyrics, keyboards, composer
  • Jonas Reingold / Bass
  • Theo Travis / Sax & flute
  • Luke Machin / Guitars
  • Steve Roberts / Drums

“Auto Reconnaissance” track-listing:

  1. Life On Hold
  2. Jinxed In Jersey
  3. Under Your Spell
  4. The Tower Of Babel
  5. Lie Back & Think Of England
  6. The Midas Touch
  7. Proxima (Bonus Track)

9.5 Excellent

The Tangent has surpassed themselves this time around, creating a compelling album that keeps pushing every musical boundary while honestly depicting human nature. With a unique concept of what progressive rock is, they elevate their musical proposition to new heights

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 10
  • Production 9
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