The term “Kalman Filter” refers to a process of observing and measuring something over long periods of time, rather than simply making a single observation of a single moment at a specific time. The process never claims to be perfect, but it does claim to be a more accurate of understanding over the long term.
Why Andy Tillison chose to name his new band and new project Kalman Filter is beyond my knowledge. Whether he just liked the name or whether he has some intent in comparing his approach to the music to the Kalman Filter process is, again, unknown to me. Still, if it’s the latter, it seems to fit. The music does seem to me to be a way of thinking about a process, seen over moments of great lengths of time, reaching toward perfection.
To complicate matters, Tillison has written an extremely detailed if rather psychedelic story about his encounters with some black-op security forces here: https://www.thetangent.org/index.php/read/the-kalman-filter
Tillison is best known—especially to Americans—as the fountainhead and touchstone of all thing The Tangent related. But, he’s responsible for a number of other groups and projects as well: including, most recently, Tangekanic, as well as Parallel or 90 Degrees and a number of solo albums (Fog, Murk, Electric Sinfonia, and Durch).
The Kalman Filter album, EXO-OCEANS, arrived yesterday at Progarchy HQ, and I’ve been devouring it. As always with Tillison’s non-Tangent albums, the word that comes to mind most frequently is “tasteful.” This album is credited to “Andy Tillison Diskdrive with guest Matt Stevens.” Tillison kindly signed the CD-booklet, and the opening to the liner notes deal mostly with types of instruments and software used in the making of the album. Admittedly, most of this means nothing to me, but it’s clear that Tillison has a deep passion for what all of this is. The following four pages of detailed text (and gorgeous images) deal with the meaning of frequency and hues found in oceans and light. The images that Tillison includes illustrate how certain beings would perceive these various frequencies. It’s hard not to come away from these notes and images wondering if Tillison is even more of a genius than those who love him already imagined.
Of all of the progarchists, I’m probably least equipped to understand what Tillison has written and created here. As a strict humanist, numbers and equations and software just confuse the schnikees out of me. Homer and Socrates, I get. Numbers, not so much.
Ok, but what about the music? Again, it goes back to tasteful. I love this album. It’s adventuresome in the best ways imaginable. I do hear a lot of Tangerine Dream, but I also hear some late nineteenth-century impressionism and a lot of early 1970s jazz. Bizarrely, at one moment in the third track, there’s even a disco moment! That one shocked me, and I’m glad it’s there only momentarily. Yet, in its moment, it does make the rest of the album more beautiful, in a strange kind of way.
The last track, “Jornakh” is listed as 42:18 long. But at 21:43, the music fades away, with only very, very low tones being played. To my ears, I had to struggle to hear anything at all, and I heard the sounds only after several listens. There’s no recognizable sound again until the 31:46 mark. Even then, though, the sounds are nearly unrecognizable. Imagine listening to the first minutes of Talk Talk’s SPIRIT OF EDEN for 11 minutes and you’ll get a sense of what the last 11 minutes of EXO-OCEANS is like.
After Tillison’s last Tangent album, THE SLOW RUST OF MEMORY, there were a lot of hard feelings against his politics, at least in the United States. Certainly, several proggers refused to buy the album, and others felt so strongly that they swore off Tillison’s music, once and for all time. Yet, even those angry at Tillison recognized his music as pure genius. If you were one of the “Never Tillisons” after THE SLOW RUST, please reconsider. There’s not a single lyric on THE KALMAN FILTER, and he and Matt Stevens (as always; another brilliant musician and man) play their hearts out.
Tillison, whatever his political views, is a sheer genius. The KALMAN FILTER only reaffirms my love of all things Tillison. Ave, Mr. Diskdrive.