Even though this is The Tangent's eighth album in twelve years (that's pretty good going by anyone's standards), I only became familiar with them when I reviewed their previous album, 'Le Sacre Du Travail (The Rite Of Work), An Electric Sinfonia By Andy Tillison' (2013. That was a dark and tough to digest album but also a mesmerising one. True to their mantra of never completing an album with the same lineup, apart from the ever present Andy Tillison and a few familiar faces, 'A Spark In The Aether: The Music That Died Alone Volume Two' sees them produce a completely different emotional beast, albeit one that is still clearly 'The Tangent'.
'A Spark In The Aether' is an uplifting, almost jovial album of classic prog. Tillison himself states that he wanted to return to the roots of the debut album 'The Music That Died Alone' (2003), hence the subtitle of this new release. That album was about the then current state of progressive music which was seemingly dying out. Twelve years later, much has happened within the genre and a new breed of musicians are keeping the flame alive.
Very much like the previous album, this is around seventy minutes in length, so your brain does have to be wired into prog, with a good dose of jazz, mode and a love of bands such as Yes will be a huge help, but if you can do that then 'A Spark In The Aether' will hopefully be as much a joy for you as it is for me. Unlike much of the pretentious twaddle that plagued a lot of prog back in the day, though, The Tangent manage to encompass a modern feel, so even though many of the tracks are long (the lyrically brilliant 'The Celluloid Road' comes in at a whopping twenty one minutes plus), you are never bored or feel like anything should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Joining the “I can pretty much play anything” attitude of Tillison this time around are bassist Jonas Reingold (Flower Kings), saxophonist and flutist Theo Travis (Steven Wilson Band, Robert Fripp and Gong), guitarist Luke Machin (Maschine) and drummer Morgan Agren (Frank Zappa, Devin Townsend, Kaipa, Mats/Morgan Band). As I said in my review of the previous album, Andy Tillison does not choose anything but the best to join him and, true to form, the performances here are utterly brilliant and enchanting. This whole album is also played with a good deal of humour and the lyrics are not only very intelligent but extremely funny. More immediate and positive than 'Le Sacre Du Travail', 'A Spark In The Aether' is no less intense; in fact, I think it is more so. The Tangent are on a mission to prove that, far from being a forgotten art, prog is alive, well and in extremely good hands.
A SPARK IN THE AETHER - THE MUSIC THAT DIED ALONE VOLUME TWO
Review by Rick Tilley
20th April 2015
1) A Spark in the Aether
2) Codpieces and Capes
3) Clearing the Attic
5) The Celluloid Road
6) A Spark in the Aether (Part 2)
7) San Francisco Radio Edit
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...prog is alive, well and in extremely good hands."