A Moveable and Glorious Feast: L’Étagère Du Travail by The Tangent

etagereJust as The Tangent’s Le Sacre du Travail was entering into the ordinary time of our lives, Andy Tillison (though the son of a Congregationalist minister) jolts us toward a high Feast Day, and the liturgy of life and art continues with The Tangent’s second release of 2013.

A moveable but glorious feast, L’Étagère Du Travail offers us more glimpses–through a glass, not darkly, as it turns out (with apologies to Paul)–of the essence of truth and beauty.

Please forgive all of the religious references, but musicians such as Tillison, Spawton, Longdon, Armstrong, Cohen, Erra, Stevens, and others bring this out in me.  These fine artists always reach for the best, and that best is often beyond any rational interpretation or explanation.  It’s no wonder the medievals spoke of artists with reverence and awe, in terms of ecstasy.  They touch something the rest of us (the vast, vast majority of us) can only sense exists.

2013 will go down, someday, as one of the best years in the history of progressive rock music, and Tillison has now contributed not one but two major releases and, consequently, two critical steps to and toward the sheer quality of this year.

The Tangent has been in existence for over a decade now, and Mr. Diskdrive himself, Andy Tillison, that red-headed, mischievous sprite, has given the music world much to celebrate.  Tillison has consistently brought together the best of the best musicians, and he has orchestrated all–lyrics, instruments, and arrangements–with some thing that is nothing short of brilliance.

The "red-headed" one.  Stolen from Tillison's FB page.  Without permission but not with malice.
The “red-headed” one. Stolen from Tillison’s FB page. Without permission but not with malice.

This new release, available exclusively at thetangent.org consists of ten tracks including, as the website notes, five new “unreleased demo” tracks and 3 “revisitations.”  The 10 tracks come to roughly 1.2 hours of music.  So, this is no EP.  As Tillison notes on the site, it’s a companion album, a “sister” (a very lovable little sister, I presume) to Le Sacre du Travail.

As with its sibling–naturally having received almost nothing but rave reviews–L’Étagère Du Travail is a must own.  It needs to be in the collection of anyone who appreciates fine art, but especially for those of us who like our music progressive.

I received a review copy just after departing for family vacation, and it has, in many ways, become the soundtrack of my trip into the American West, despite the fact Tillison is, perhaps, the most English of English folk!

From my many listens, I’m absolutely taken with and blown away by the energy and the highly controlled anger of the album.  It’s jazzier and more experimental (there’s even a hint of disco on one track, “Dancing in Paris”–all done, of course, with taste), moment by moment, than Le Sacre du Travail.  This, of course, is to be expected, as the former album told a coherent story, while this companion album explores the same sacred space, but in exemplary fragments not in overarching mythos.

Yet, Tillison’s art is unmistakably Tillison’s art.  Every single thing you love about The Tangent is here in abundance.  As far as I know, I (rather proudly) own everything The Tangent has recorded with the exception of A Place on the Bookshelf (a stupid oversight on my part; it slipped under my radar when it came out; and I’ve regretted not buying it ever since), and I’ve been listening to them for a decade.

Getting a review copy just on the eve of my longed-for summer vacation into the Rockies was akin–again, forgive the religious references–to having wine filled to the brim at a wedding.  As it was at Cana, so it must be in York.  Tillison’s goodness overflows.

Yet, as I just wrote–there’s a lot of anger in this album, but it’s the anger of a righteous man, the kind of anger that demands justice.  What Tillison does with his lyrics is criticize what desperately needs to be criticized in this world.  He does it with passion, but also with immense graciousness, charity, and exactness.  This is not the cheesiness of Bono’s preaching in 1987, but the jeremiad of, well, a modern Jeremiah, albeit an atheist anarchist Jeremiah.  Tillison wants the idealism of his era to meet reality, and he finds the post-modern world more than a bit disconcerting.  The Tangent’s website proclaims correctly and with perfect self-understanding, “Progressive Rock Music for a World on Auto-pilot.”

Yes.  Absolutely, yes.  Every word Tillison sings proclaims, “Wake up, world!!!”

I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Tillison in person, but I suspect he’s rather Chestertonian–clever as the dickens and willing to let the world know what needs to be known, but always with that impish and knowing smile and always with a wry sense of humor.  He is, I believe, a man who reaches and reaches but who understands too much of human nature to be taken in by the nakedness of the king.

Topics on this companion album include generational betrayal, crony capitalism, and corporate biotechnology.

As soon as I heard the first lyrics of “Monsanto,” I knew I’d love this album as much as any thing Tillison has written.  Perfection itself.  My favorite track, however, is the bitterly hilarious “Supper’s Off,” an obvious reference to the Genesis classic, complete with generational disgust and bewilderingly Apocalyptic imaginings, bettered only by John the Revelator himself at Patmos!

As I’ve noted before at progarchy and elsewhere, the various prog musicians in the world today are nothing if not perfectionists.  Eccentrics, to be sure, but perfectionists, too.  And, to these perfectionist eccentrics, I offer the highest praise I can.  If every person took her or his life and work as seriously as do the greatest of prog musicians, the world would not swirl so close to the abyss, the killing fields might be kept a bit more at bay, and we might all recognize the unique genius in every one of our neighbors.  Or, as Tillison writes of himself: “romantic enough to believe you can change the world with a song. I wanna write that song.”

Mr. Diskdrive, thank you.  Thank you for truth, and thank you for beauty.  Long may you rage.

*****

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Order from http://www.thetangent.org/.  Now.  Yes, now.  Hit the link.  Quit reading this–go now!  Ha.  Sorry–too many John Hughes’ movies in my life.  Go order!

Seriously, enjoy this offering from The Tangent.  L’Étagère Du Travail by The Tangent (2013).  Tracks: Monsanto; Lost in Ledston; The Iron Crows (La Mer); Build a new House with The Le; Supper’s Off; Dancing in Paris; Steve Wright in the Afternoon; A Voyage through Rush Hour; The Ethernet (Jakko Vocal Mix); and The Canterbury Sequence live.

For interviews with Tillison (including with the grandest of interviewers, Eric Perry and Geoff Banks), check these out:

  • interview – Eric Perry, “beta tester” for the new album asks Andy some very involved questions about it – and gets some very involved answers.
  • interview – The Dutch Progressive Rock Page’s David Baird asks about the album, the band, the lineup changes etc
  • radio interview – Geoff Banks and Andy natter on ad-infinitum about prog, pop, Magenta, the UK, the world etc.

4 thoughts on “A Moveable and Glorious Feast: L’Étagère Du Travail by The Tangent

  1. Pingback: Supper’s Off? | Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla

  2. Pingback: Anticipating a Lordly Tangent | Progarchy: Pointing toward Proghalla

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