THE TANGENT - Le Sacre Du Travail
Andy Tillisonís career started in the Seventies as a punk musician, before he evolved into a fully fledged progressive rocker, first with the obscure band Gold Frankincense & Disk Drive, later with the little more known Parallel Or 90 Degrees, both of which showed strong ties to Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator. The Tangent first started as a side project and supergroup. On their first album The Music That Died Alone ten years ago, famous musicians like Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Kaipa) and David Jackson (Van Der Graaf Generator) were part of the line-up. Back then The Tangent still sounded very retro and were not so much interested in creating their own sound.
This of course changed over the years, with Andy Tillison becoming more and more the focal point of attention, and their albums getting gradually more interesting. And just like the prog bands of the early Seventies who released often more than one album a year, Tillison is also a very busy songsmith, so that after seven studio albums and three live records, Le Sacre Du Travail is already their eighth regular album (although there was at least one rarities collection in between). The title is of course a reference to Igor Stravinskyís groundbreaking ballet work Le Sacre Du Printemps (The Rite Of Spring) which exactly one hundred years ago apparently changed the face of classical music forever. It should also be noted that The Tangent made an adaptation of that piece on their self released compilation A Place On The Shelf in 2010.
Subtitled an Electric Sinfonia, Le Sacre Du Travail is actually a more than one hour long piece of conceptual music spread over the course of five tracks. This is exactly the indulgence and grandeur that has made progressive rock the such strongly hated genre among most people who prefer their music short and concise, but then there is this vocal minority who relished the vast and unlimited style that doesnít give a damn about radio airplay or commercial accessibility. And I consider myself a member of that latter group.
It is no secret: Le Sacre Du Travail is The Tangentís best album so far, and even after a decade acting under that name, Andy Tillison and his band have no shortage of ideas. The plot of this hour long piece of musical extravaganza is the life of the average working person, seen from a far away future when people can only marvel at the strangeness and boredom of current life. The suite begins with Coming Up On The Hour (Overture), where the story is explained amid orchestral movements. This is followed by the albumís two main tracks, Morning Journey & The Arrival and Afternoon Malaise, both of which clock in around twenty minutes and unfold the whole magnificence of The Tangent. Their style is still progressive rock, and there are nods to Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd, but it never comes across as some derivative drivel. Instead we get ingenious songwriting which makes the tracks sound much shorter than they actually are. Everything is thoroughly composed, there are no moments of improvisational self-indulgence. Andy Tillisonís voice is also quite extraordinary, and while he may not be the most technically versatile singer on this planet, his vocals have something very unique that make him an unmistakable frontman. A Voyage Through Rush Hour is a short jazzy interlude that reminds of hectic film soundtracks, before the magnum opus ends with the twelve minute long Evening TV, whose mood draws up strong parallels to Genesisí masterpiece The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, and maybe there are also contextual parallels between both pieces.
And then the album isnít over yet. The listener gets three bonus tracks, starting with the smooth jazzy ballad Muffled Epiphany which, while being quite cool in itself, doesnít of course reach the genius of the preceding long-track. Hat has apparently been recorded at the Mexborough School in 1979 and is a one minute punk track, owing more to the Cardiacs than to the Sex Pistols, though. Finally we get a radio edit of the fifth movement Evening TV, distilling the songís nature into a four and a half minute long prog rock song fit for the less commercial radio stations.
The bonus material does stand as welcome added value, but itís the preceding hour that will have people coming back for more. I have always been a fond admirer of Andy Tillisonís work, but not until now has he ever made me so excited. Le Sacre Du Travail is a great progressive rock album and required listening experience for every fan of the genre. Prog rock has always been about not setting any limits, and if it works so perfectly as on this album, it is a great day for the progressive rock community!