THE TANGENT - The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery
Two years after the slightly disappointing A Spark In The Aether (mind you, it was still a very good album, but they could do better!), The Tangent are back after their typical two year break with their tenth longplayer The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery. For a band that started only in the early years of the millennium, and who furthermore writes such complex music, that number of studio releases (plus a couple of live albums and bootlegs) is an impressive feat. And best of all, with their new album, they are back at being the great progressive rock band that they used to be.
Considered often a progressive supergroup, The Tangent consist of prog pioneer Andy Tillison (formerly of Parallel or 90 Degrees) on vocals, keyboards and for the first time on a Tangent record, on drums, joined by bass player Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings), saxophonist/flautist Theo Travis (Soft Machine Legacy, Steven Wilson and many more) and guitarist and vocalist Luke Machin and keyboard player and vocalist Marie-Eve De Gaultier, both from Maschine, with the latter being a new addition to the band. While they are all skilful musicians, itís Reingoldís warm bass guitar and Travisí woodwinds that more than once recall former Van Der Graaf Generator member David Jackson that give the music the certain something.
Lyrically speaking, The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery is so far The Tangentís angriest and most political album. Tillison has been inspired by the courageous texts written by former Pink Floyd mastermind Roger Waters and his albums The Final Cut and Amused To Death. From a musical perspective, The Tangent are in my opinion much more suspenseful though. Like on many of their previous efforts, we get very long song. The opener Two Rope Swings is at six and a half minutes the albumís shortest track, and a good concise entry point. The following Dr. Livingstone (I Presume) is an instrumental, which comes as a surprise, so early into this otherwise highly politically charged record. And still, the band shows that they are also great without vocals, as this somewhat jazz fusion track comes with all kinds of twists and turns throughout its twelve minutes (making this the second shortest track!).
Up next is the albumís magnum opus, Slow Rust, at twenty-two and a half minutes offering everything the progressive rock fan enjoys. The female vocals courtesy of De Gaultier are sublime, as those familiar with her work on Maschineís last album should know. Up next are two more tracks: The Sad Story Of Lead And Astatine (sixteen minutes) and A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road (seventeen and a half minutes). Itís this last track which is the most political one. It deals with the migrant crisis and how poor the West is dealing with something they helped create in the first place. The general mood in the population is diametrically opposite to the songís sentiment, and thatís why I applaud the band so strongly for taking such a courageous stance.
This ends the double vinyl edition, while the CD comes with an experimental bonus track. Basildonxit is a weird five-minute piece which owes practically more to electronic music than to prog rock. Thereís maybe even a hint of Ozric Tentacles to be found here.
Andy Tillison has created his own brand of progressive rock over the years, seamlessly merging retro and more modern prog with occasional touches of Canterbury whimsy. Some guest artists make this album even more worthwhile. DJ/producer Matt Farrow is adding electronic elements, and there is even a vocal part by Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley. The artwork was in the very able hands of DC Comics artist Mark Buckingham, best known for his work on Fables and The Sandman. So all in all, progressive rock albums donít come any better than this. The music is great, the songs are generous, the lyrics are intelligent and bold, the artwork is pristine. Anything less than a maximum rating would be a slap in the face of these tremendous artists!