The ever prolific The Tangent will release their 10th studio album ‘Proxy’ this November and in doing so remind the community of fans and peers that they are a force of nature that defies the odds when it comes to producing new music regularly and touring it around the world. Quite how this happens is mind blowing when you consider the challenges of pulling this off as a self-funded and self -organised and promoted endeavour.
Aside from the Inside Out label showing their on-going dedication to The Tangent, the real success in the delivery of the music from inception to the stage comes from the hardworking collection of excellent musicians, lead by Andy Tillison, who pull together and function as a band and a business.
Last year’s tour of Europe and US was a masterstroke in the clever guise of ‘Tangekanic’ – a collective of Tangent and ‘Karmakanic’ pooling their resources, their talents and most notably, the risks to bring the music to the stage. This event not only served as a means to get the band out in front of their fans but as a vehicle to work through ideas and fresh inspiration. Reminiscent of the classic bands of old like ‘Purple’ writing their epic ‘Highway Star’ on the bus, the band began to naturally develop ideas for what would be their next album on their travels too. It’s not without some sense of irony that ‘Proxy’ came together (somewhat) through time spent together as a collective.
‘Proxy’ comes to the fans with the usual pre-order options, which are a big part of how the band survive and continue to thrive. However this time, the usual process to develop the music and keep the faithful happy with snippets while the world waits patiently for the album to be completed has been much shorter – the announcement and release date have happily come closer together which in itself generates a buzz that the band are working hard to deliver.
What another cracking year for music in the Prog world.
Am I still able to say that –‘ Prog’? Some people are too cool to want to associate themselves with it.
And yet there have been some fine releases in 2017 that are proudly ‘Prog’, with a capital ‘P’.
Not least the excellent ‘From Silence to Somewhere’ from Wobbler and the Tangent’s ‘The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery’. I know that there will be many lists out there soon enough- ‘My favourite top 10 of the year’ and ‘here’s a picture of all my vinyl’, posts are imminent across the web and social media.
To that end I have really narrowed the best of the year to one release.. and it really is one of the most outstanding albums in a rich and varied career to date.
It’s no secret that last year there was much gnashing of teeth (mine were gnashed) and lamentation at the announcement that Beardfish were disbanding, in fact there is a little torch still lit in a hope that someday they will reform.
However on the strength of ‘On her Journey to the Sun’ – RikardSjöblom has stepped out of the shadow of his former band and produced a triumphant body of work that highlights his impressive skills and craftsmanship, both in composition and performance.
It would be remiss of me to not refer to the outlet that Sjöblom worked under for this release. Using the Gungfly project, his mission statement for the style of music was laid out. Previous Gungly albums have been eclectic, self-reflecting and unafraid of what genre they are associated with. In a break from some of this though, Sjöblom hasmade an album that captures the spirit of prog with a fresh, vitality that even the diehards that renounce prog and all its perceived crustiness, would struggle to deny.
Don’t just take my word for it, critically the mainstream press in the UK – namely the Guardian, recognised the album as one of their best for 2017 and placed it alongside the likes of Richard Dawson, Drake and Paramore. What they thought of it is the reason it stands out. On her Journey to the sun may be prog but it has a pop sensibility about it. See Steven Wilson also this year for attempting this. But rather than follow Wilson’s plan to emulate his heroes of Talk Talk and Gabriel, Sjöblom keeps them more subtle in the delivery. The fantastic Polymixia combines the level of epic complexity you would expect from Sjoblom, and mixes it skilfully with a funk groove-clavi section that comes straight out of classic Stevie Wonder
What is joyful about the album is the superb voice of Sjöblom. His delicate ethereal falsetto combines with passionate soulfulness and sometimes a grittiness that packs a punch. Adding to this is the weirdly bonkers, sometimes trippy vibe that inhabits this album as it does a lot of his work, especially the Beardfish prime albums. It’s this level of sophistication that sets this above his peers and keeps the album spinning on and on…
Anger and frustration spilling over into the new Tangent work.
An insight into the new Tangent project, given a spring 2017 release date, has been launched, showing the next progression in The Tangent’s journey.
Rising Nationalism and Empirical rhetoric with flag beating patriotism are at the forefront of a major political upheaval in the UK with the recent decision to ‘Brexit’ from Europe – and now these are the subject of the latest release from The Tangent – ‘A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road’.
Songwriter Andy Tillison has shaped these events into a spikey, snarly, progressive epic which deals with the recent events with all the very best of his political song writing prowess.. pulling no punches. What we have here is 19 minutes of political storytelling, mixing familiar flavours of The Tangent and Po90 and a dose of Tillison’s own punk roots.
What Tillison does do effectively is take the rhetoric of the times , twists it and spits it out angrily in mock reiteration – “It’s all ours” and “why can’t we fly the flag?”
With an impressive cast of Tangent regulars the sound is polished and hard-edged with superb performances all round. The weight and might of Reingold’s bass coupled with the blistering guitar from Machin provide the meat on the bones of this track with Theo Travis providing both screaming sax and delicate flute layering. Perhaps most impressive is the return to form for Tillison who has not long recovered from a serious heart condition. Sounding better than ever, he delivers with passion, like a man reborn. There is no doubt that this is the sound of a new Tangent, and an exciting proposition it is…
To grab a first listen – check out the band’s new video
2014 was a great year for Progressive Rock – FACT!
There is already a sentiment around and about that last year was in many ways better on the Prog scene than this one. A statement that is bound to cause some interesting discussion around the social networks and in the many, many top ten blogs that fill our lives at this time of year. I have many great reasons why I dispute that statement and it is pleasing to report at the end of another year, Prog is in fact in even better health than ever and keeps gaining in strength.
Working on another well known Dutch page for reviews in 2014 along with Progarchy has given me a great deal of music to review and compare so these albums have been exceptional in their ability to rise to the top of a very large pile of music this year.
So without much ado, here are just the best three albums that have had some heavy rotation this year.
Robert Reed: Sanctuary
Without doubt one of the most beautiful crafted albums that has come along for years. Sanctuary makes no excuses for its heritage and openly embraces the fact that it is a dedication or homage to the great ‘Tubular Bells’. Many of its rhythms and much of its structure harks closely to Oldfield’s classic album and at first it is easy to dismiss this release as nothing more than a clever pastiche. However the level of musicianship and writing on this album belies that opinion and demonstrates a real commitment to a bold idea. This is no nod towards a great album in the way so many artists channel Floyd or Genesis…this is a good as anything Oldfield could ever produce. The great thing is that this album has legs and will keep on opening up its beauty over many listens. The challenge will always be for Reed to maintain this standard, above and beyond his love of Oldfield.
Brimstone, previously known as The Brimstone Solar Radiation Band have produced an exceptional album of flair and vitality which criminally seems to have largely gone unnoticed for the most part. Full of weirdness and wonderful vibe this is a psychedelic marvel that is packed with originality and marvellously catchy tunes.
At its best there is the fantastically titled – ‘Flapping Lips at Ankle Height’ – an upbeat tune which chugs with a similar pace and feel to Emerson Lake and Palmer’s, ‘Fanfare For The Common Man’ largely thanks to some amazing rhythmic bass which provides a powerful backdrop for a psychedelic wall of sound.
It would seem that with the likes of Ossicles and Brimstone, Norway has much to offer musically and may also be the most over looked country when it comes to output. This is heartily recommended and was my top album of the year until the release of the album to come….
Some things in life are worth waiting for, even if the wait seems to last for an eternity.
Six years is a long time in music, and with the departure of two founders members it seemed that Abel Ganz may have finally run its course after their last release ‘Shooting Albatross’ . Yet the core essence of the band remained and with a solid 70 minutes of gorgeously crafted songs written and an equally impressive production, Abel Ganz have produced the album of their career.
Full of epic multi-part prog goodness and fused with gentle folk and country and more than a little slice of their Scottish homeland, there is the overriding conclusion that this is something quite special. This collection of songs is not only a winner from start to finish, it is sumptuously packaged and expertly produced and as close to a modern day classic as you are ever likely to get. It is the best release of the year hands down.
As ever, these are struggling artists who make this music because they love to do it, not for financial gain or fortune. All of these bands have gone in with the eyes and their wallets open in the hope of delivering something special. To keep this alive, if you can, please visit their sites and check out their music and take a chance on it.
Happy Christmas and here’s to another great year of Prog rock – 2015!
The rise of the ‘KarmaTangentanic’ hybrid….(needs a better name)
All the best superheroes are hybrids….Peter Parker and a radioactive spider, The Fantastic Four and those comic rays…all enhanced by a powerful force.
In May 2014 a new force was first witnessed. Strange sightings and tales from Europe reported the appearance of this new super entity. To the rest of the world it seemed like just another internet rumour…..
At the last of the Celebr8 concert series in London, a crowd finally witnessed what they had seen on the web….the merging of two greats, The Tangent and Karmakanic –a supergroup of heroic proportions with the power to captivate an audience…(even in the midst of a technical glitch)
In truth, the Tangent has always been a hybrid, a powerful organisation led by the determined, brilliant, yet anarchic young mind that is Andy Tillison. So naturally a mixture with long time member Jonas Reingold and Co otherwise known as Karmakanic was an amalgamation that had potential to be huge…. and you know what? It bloody well was!
So successful was the mix, that writing this is proving to be hard. To write about the Tangent performance may not do the fullest of justice to the Swedish counterparts who seamlessly performed the greatest songs from the last ten years from the Tangent catalogue alongside Mr Tillison, who of course was armed with one of his greatest of weapons, the guitar wizard, Luke Machin…
Late afternoon, Karmakanic completed a superb set, massively bolstered by a brilliant thirty minute epic which sounded fully formed and ready to record. It was an exciting early indication of what was to come at the end of the night as Andy and Luke performed the new material alongside the classic ‘1969‘ and ‘Where the Earth Meets the Sky‘.
Yet as the evening wore on and Anathema finished their excellent set, The Tangent had one more trick up it’s sleeve, one that would make this one of their very special appearances.. Theo Travis….(more from him in a moment.)
Bursting with energy and intensity The Tangent arrived on the stage and instantly ripped through the concert ready ‘Evening TV’ from last year’s ‘Le Sacre Du Travail’. Paced up a notch, this lively belter of a track was all the more enhanced by the inclusion of Tillison’s Keytar, which freed his performance up, allowing his enduring style to shine brightly. To the casual member of the audience unfamiliar with The Tangent, the immediate impression must have been that this was a band that met regularly and toured often, such was the tightness and skill between the group. Clearly the mini-tour preceeding the UK date had honed their performance all the more, and despite a tight touring schedule and long travel, they looked fresh and ready to bite. (Just typical of a superhero, always ready anytime, anywhere.)
Then as the opener was complete, something happened and it looked like disaster for our heroes, the dreaded enemy of the modern world struck….Technology!!
Clearing the stage, the audience were then treated to something almost unique in concert terms (Almost)… A Windows reboot. A problem…not untypical of a busy festival, a technical breakdown. Hell, it happens to McCartney.. it can happen to anyone.
However, such was the power still felt by the crowd from what they had just witnessed, that the break in the show had no detrimental effect on their impression of this new super-hybrid….
…and then they returned. Performing ‘Perdu Dans Paris’ from ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ the ace up their sleeve finally became obvious, through the magnificent silky tones of Theo Travis. Straight away all memories of the delay were erased and the band delivered, and then some!
Travis made the whole thing look easy. Surrounded by his array of wind instruments, the crowd were treated to a performance that exemplified all that is good about the Tangent. This was indeed a rare moment, a chance for fans to see the songs as they should be and without doubt the delivery went way beyond the excellence heard on the album. To add to this, Luke Machin was every bit as captivating and his youth belied the true mature ability and professional attitude he displayed. Many times he shifted from scorching hot shred to slow jazz with consummate ease. The audience ate this up greedily and their responses to both these musicians said it all.
An old favourite in the form of ‘GPS Culture’ from ‘A Place In the Queue’ was next and the introduction to the song gave the crowd an insight into the somewhat abstract thinking of Tillison and his creative uses of jingles and TV themes. The tale gained approval and there was a noticeable ripple of amusement at the conclusion. The song itself was delivered with its well established ease and precision. It’s vital then at this point to remind you that this is TheTangentanik (still needs work) and the hybrid version of the band, (thanks to the amazing Jonas,
Morgan Ågren and Göran Edman with Lalle Larsson) ensured the songs were a huge success–a feat in itself as they are nothing short of challenging in their length and complexity.
The highlight of the show followed with the mammoth ‘In Darkest Dreams’, not old and extinct as the large woolly elephant-like, Lord of the Ringy creature would suggest, but in its scope and power and size. This was the time to see the material that propelled The Tangent to the forefront of the modern Prog genre and it was not hard to see why. The track has it all, a catchy refrain, (the audience soaked this up) a stadium sized middle section which allowed all the musicians to shine and the now compulsory inclusion of the ambient, tangerine like ‘After Ricochet’ where Tillison, head down and in the zone begins his mesmerising homage solo performance. The suspense throughout this section from the audience was clear and as the cycle came to an end it was obvious in their enthusiastic reaction.
The show could have ended there, but there was time for one more return, and a tasty surprise of things to come with the performance of ‘A Spark in the Aether’ (title and details to be confirmed officially at a later date.) Coming from a fortunate beta test position the track was already a favourite of mine, and by the end it was clear the crowd felt the same. This was The Tangent in full throttle as the song raced along at 100, 000 miles per hour. The pace and fire that this new material has is mind blowing and represents another seismic approach in the development of the follow up to Le Sacre.
On the back of an unrelenting applause and round of cheers, the hybrid finished in the form of Karmakanic (Karmakangent?) for one last hurrah with ‘Turn it Up’, a perfect pop-laden conclusion that left the audience with the biggest disappointment of the night…namely no more songs.
Strength comes through collaboration and the combination of these two heavy weights was a perfect mix, especially given their long associations. Add in the Travis and Machin formula and you have the illustrious chemical X, a rare ingredient that provides amazing Prog rock! There is hope for another joint tour for the future, and on the basis of this tour, it should happen, without doubt. The fact that both the Tangent and Karmakanic have new releases to come in 2015 should give you food for thought. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of TheTangakarmakic….(I give up)
Many thanks to Martin Reijman for his excellent pictures.
It’s a given that many progressive rock fans grew up on a diet of the beautiful, quirky songs of Kate Bush through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, many of whom will have probably paid out massively to see her on her upcoming tour in the UK, such is the lasting love for her unique, beautiful sound.
If you are a fan of that sound or indeed that of other singers such as Tori Amos then there is a strong likelihood you will find something exciting and new, yet familiar and classic about ‘Little Sparrow‘.
Hailing from London originally and now Manchester, UK, Little Sparrow, aka Katie Ware, has been slowing but surely burning a slow course to stardom with her own delicate, acoustic style which reflects some influence and character from the likes of Bush and Amos but also some of the sound of the lesser known ‘All About Eve‘ from the late 90’s.
Little Sparrow represents her own acoustic folk styling that may at first glance appear to be one singer in a well subscribed genre, there are many bars and clubs around the world with talented female singers all armed with a Dreadnought and a Capo. But it’s worth taking the time to hear the ones that stand out from the rest and Ware is a great example of that.
Her debut release, ‘Wishing Tree’ comes on a wave of growing appreciation for her infectious songs and captivating presence and the recognition from the national press and beyond has started to propel her towards the kind of success she deserves.
Mixing emotional charge and thought provoking themes, Ware impresses with her lyrical subtlety and her cleverness. Frequently there is a delicious ambiguity to her songs, ‘Sending a message’ is a wonderfully moving piece that stands as a song of deep yearning love and also a question about modern communication and the loss to us that it brings in our everyday lives. Musically there is a simplicity to the songs’ design which helps deliver the honesty in the pieces. Without clutter the potency is truly realised and this also allows for Ware’s impressive voice to shine brightly.
Songs like ‘Polly’, ‘The Hunted’ and ‘Wishing Tree’ are all delivered with the same charm and excellence. ‘Polly’ particularly shines with its pulsing beat and vocal layering and is a contender for the strongest track on the album. Without doubt, after hearing it, the pull to hear more takes over and leaves one wondering why an artist of this calibre is still an unknown.
On the strength of this debut, there is a clear case for success and acclaim. For those fans already listening to Little Sparrow, they are surely practicing their “I told you so” responses.
Little Sparrow – Wishing Tree (2014) UK
2.By My Side 05:09
3.The Flame 04:31
4.Wishing Tree 02:57
5.Sending The Message 04:34
6.Struck Gold 04:14
7.I Found A Way 03:07
8.The Hunted (A Bears Tale) 04:56
10.The Swallow Flies 03:03
From May 5th the new debut album from Scandinavian group ‘Kaukasus‘ is released.
PRESS RELEASE – Described as “Dark, Nordic progressive rock, with excursions into kraut & art rock”
Scandinavian Prog Rock legends Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho), Rhys Marsh (The Autumn Ghost, Opium Cartel) & Mattias Olsson (Änglagård, White Willow) have joined forces as Kaukasus to record and release their outstanding debut album Kaukasus ‘I’ out on Autumsongs Records via Burning Shed on 05 May 2014.
Starting life as an experiment into Krautrock style, the project morphed into a fully fledged and modern sounding dark, Nordic, progressive rock album, with elements and excursions stylistically into Krautrock, art-rock, and world music calling into mind such bands as Japan, Genesis, Can, Brian Eno and early Peter Gabriel.
Kaukasus view themselves as a musical tripod — its weight firmly in the middle, where the three musicians ideas and styles meet, each band member bringing their own signature to the music, from Olsson’s supple and dynamic drumming and Mellotron textures, Marsh’s impassioned vocals and guitar work, to the strange, snakelike and evocative woodwind and synth lines from Einarsen.
‘I’ will be released on Compact Disc, in a mini-LP gatefold sleeve, with artwork by Henning Lindahl on 5th May 2014.
Personally I have found this album to be rather interesting, diverse with a really enjoyable touch of old school rock.
As much as it is described as Nordic it really has a broad range of styles in the sound and particularly I have heard some other elements such as the piano on ‘In The Stillness Of Time’ that reminds me of the same progression in Talk Talk. There is a superb bit of Tangerine Dream in the track ‘Starlit Motion’ – an ambient piece of excellence layered with a Moog from ‘Wish you were here’ to chill out to.
Perhaps even more obscure is the taste of ‘Black‘ via the voice of Colin Vearncombe (80’s kids will know who) on ‘The Witness’.
The final part of the album ‘The Skies Give Meaning’ could be a little Steven Wilson from his early period and yet mixed with U2!
None of these elements invade the music significantly, they are the salt and pepper seasoning only.
This is a really excellent find and will be one to look out for.
Check out the video of the single ‘Lift the Memory’ which was released on April 7th 2014 and is available on all digital & streaming services.
01. The Ending Of The Open Sky
02. Lift The Memory
03. In The Stillness Of Time
04. Starlit Motion
06. The Witness
07. The Skies Give Meaning