During last weekend, the editor-in-chief came up to my place with a total of 17 CD's, 2 DVD's, and no less than 41 download albums for me to review...and the statement that there were also some InsideOut Music download releases which needed my attention first (in spite of our rule that we review actual albums before the downloads), because the local promoter was getting on his back. Turns out, a couple of those albums should've been reviewed quite some time ago (just look at the release date of this very album!), but things couldn't be helped, as our specialist reviewer has apparently vanished from the sight of the earth, with even his closer friends not having seen the man in months. In essence, I'm doin' someone else's job now. This means I've actually never come across The Tangent before, in spite of my own love of Progressive Rock. Weirdly enough, when I went in search of a Concrete Web review of the band's previous album, 2011's COMM, I found myself quite unable to retrieve it, and therefore unable to fall back on it as a reference (in fact, we have to go back all the way to 20/03/2008, to find a review posted by the band's Not As Good As The Book album). So...I guess I'd better tell you the history of this band then, eh? I hope to be able to make it as brief as possible, in spite of the fact that the band went through several line-up changes!
The mastermind of this band is keyboardist Andy Tillison (name we came across in a recent Maschine review!), whom in May 1999 was playing in this slightly Progressive British Sympho Rock act named Parallel Or 90 Degrees, which got the opportunity to play in support of Sweden's premier Prog Rock export band The Flower Kings. Neither of the bands had previously heard of the other, but Tillison took a shining to the latter, resulting in his listening to the band's albums and getting influenced in writing more Progressively minded material, which he set aside for a solo album. For the material of Po90° that he would write, he decided to strip it of all of the flowery elements of Prog, as that suited that band better.
The “left over” material in the meantime, rested on a shelf, and it was only after Tillison got in a row with the Flower Kings crew member Ian Oakley, that they re-surfaced. What happened was that Oakley was asked to write a review of that gig the bands had played together. Now, although he knew to the minute what TFK had been up to, he'd hardly paid attention to Po90°'s show and, in his review, took a somewhat dismissive view on that band's set. What followed was Tillison writing Oakley a very angry mail, which really tore the latter down to the point of immediately replying with the apology that it had been his first review ever, and that indeed he'd used an unlucky wording. What followed was Tillison accepting the apology, and apologizing for his own heavy outburst in indignation, and the two writing back and forth on the topic of Progressive music, and finding they actually had a lot in common. The end result was that Tillison sent Oakley the music he'd demoed for his solo project. Later on, Oakley became The Tangent's manager!
Just to put this on a time scale, we're talking 2002 now, okay? What Oakley did with the CD (on which Tillison's secnd keyboardist bandmate Sam Baine had collaborated), is send it on to guitarist Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings, whom liked the material so much, that he offered to play on it, and subsequently invited his bandmates Jonas Reingold and Zoltan Csorz to help out on drums and bass respectively. He also suggested that a saxophone player be written into the material, and as it so happened, Tillison had a phone number for this saxophone player by the name of David Jackson (of Van der Graaf Generator). As an extra addition to the line-up, multi-instrumentalist Guy Manning completed the septet. The album which resulted from this collaboration was entitled The Music That Died Alone and, upon release in 2003, garnered immediate appraisal from the media, resulting 'Best Newcomer', 'Best Artwork' and 'Album Of The Year' appraisals from virtually every worldwide Prog Rock poll. Each subsequent album [there's been 6 studio albums prior to Le Sacre Du Travail (those being 2004's The World That We Drive Through, 2006's A Place In The Queue, 2008's Not As Good As The Book, 2009's Down And Out In Paris And London and A Place On The Shelf, and the aforementioned COMM) and 3 live albums (2005's Pyramids And Stars, 2007's Going Off On One (also released as DVD), and 2010's Going Off On Two)] has garnered a similar response.
But, whereas the critical response would be a stable one, the line-up of the band was not. For the 2006 recordings of the 2007 live album, the line-up consisted of Tillison, Baine, saxophonist Theo Travis, Reingold, guitarist Krister Johnson, and drummer Jaime Salazar, with Guy Manning featured on the UK based tracks, but for shows in 2007 the line-up was diminished to the trio of Tillison, Reingold and Salazar. The 2008 album featured guitarist Jakko Jakszyk, but for the ensuing shows the Tillison-Reingold-Salazar trio was accompanied by guitarist Krister Johnson (Jakszyk and Travis would however do guest performances on selected shows). In June 2008 then, Tillison announced that the Swedish part of his band (consisting of Reingold, Salazar and Johnson) would not continue to work with him, and had been replaced by the four musicians of the also Swedish band Beardfish. He also stated that, according to budget & location, additional guest musicians might be called in on stage. Both bands would however continue to exist, and this eventually made problems when time came to record the 5th album, 2009's Down And Out In Paris And London. Replacements came with bassist Jonathan Barrett and drummer Paul Burgess, with Tillison taking care of all guitars on the album. Evidently, for live purposes the band had to be expanded, and when time came to record the album COMM, Tillison (on keyboards and vocals) was supported by Theo Travis on flute and sax (actually in a guest appearance mode, as he no longer was an actual member of the band anymore by then), bassist/ backing and occasional lead singer Jonathan Barrett, new guitarist/ backing singer Luke Machin, and drummer Nick Rickwood (whom sat in for Tony Latham). A month after the album's September 2011 release, Barrett announced his departure from the band due to personal reasons (along with his frustration of fans downloading the band's music illegally), and as his replacement Dan Mash (then of Luke Machin's band Concrete Lake, now also of the latter's Maschine) was inducted into the line-up. Funnily enough, the new album's line-up underwent yet another change, featuring the return of Jakszyk and Reingold, as well as Theo Travis, and with recording members David Langdon (lead vocals) and drummer Gavin Harrison. Still, when you'll see the band play on stage next year, it will be with Luke Machin on guitar, Lalle Larsson (of Karmakanic and Third World Electric fame) on additional keyboards, Reingold on the bass, drummer Morgan Ägren (also of Karmakanik, and having worked with Kaipa, Steve Vai, and...oh God...Frank Zappa!?!) and lead singer Göran Edman (formerly with Yngwie Malmsteen, currently with Karmakanic, and with several outstanding bands in the time between)!
For the new album, Tillison had the music of the band take a so-called drastic stylistic change, inspired in this by the growing resurgence in Progressive Rock to again do unexpected things that stand outside the box. For the new material, he went back to the idea of creating an orchestra suite in the spirit of artists such as Camel and Deep Purple, but at the same time such classic albums as The Moody Blues' The Days Of Future Past and Roger Waters' Amused To Death also played an important influence. You see, Le Sacre Du Travail is also the band's very first concept album, and the lyrical context is styled after The Moody Blues' album, which dealt with cutting a day into pieces and running through it on the album. In the case of Le Sacre..., we see the story told of everyday people waking up every day of the week, to make their way through morning traffic in order to get to the daily job which they don't like, go through everyday's numbing workload they have to go through, before getting back into evening traffic in order to go home, and “enjoy” some hours of evening television...and all of that in order to make enough money to hopefully be able to pay for the small house they live in. As it turns out in the opening lines of he album, the story (told in 5 movements with a total length of 63 and a half minutes) is a retrospective one, told somewhere in the future, in a time when apparently “stuff” don't work anymore!
Evidently, with the “orchestral” idea behind the music, it sounds a bit more Symphonic than Progressive and generally perhaps a little less Rock than you would like, if you know what I mean...but the end result is simply a great album, as there's still moments where the guitar and organ (as well as the vocals) break through for more exciting/ excited passages. At the same time, the “calmer” moments are embellished with influences from everything from '70s Rock to smoky Blues and from Jazz to Classical, making for a nicely varied album with high musical standards! At (www.) thetangent.com, you'll find two video trailers for the album, and additional clips and radio edits (or rather, snippets), made available on the Audio Page.
Just to be complete here, I have to mention the fact that the album was also released in a limited edition digipak version, which holds 3 bonus tracks (one of which being merely a 4:28 radio edit of the normally 12:06 Evening TV”; “Muffled Epiphany” continuing in the album's mood, and somehow a week-end continuation of it; and eventually the energetic “Hat” being a document out of the past, when Tillison wrote music for a Punk act – the song was recorded live in 1979, by the way!). Also, Le Sacre Du Travail has a sister album entitled L'Étagère Du Travail, available only through the band's website and including 5 previously unreleased tracks [in (high quality) demo stage performed by Tillison, and added guitar by Machin on three] and 5 re-visitations (a remix of a well-known older Tangent song, an alternate version of “Steve Wright In The Afternoon”, and Le Sacre's “4th Movement: A Voyage Through Rush Hour” in a stripped-down version for piano duet, without any orchestration).