Remembering Geoff Banks

As you all know, Geoff Banks passed away not long ago.  We all mourn our loss.

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When we were first starting progarchy, Geoff was an immense help.  Not only through constant encouragement but through excellent and solid advice as well.  He also promoted us where he could–especially via the web and via his radioshow.

I’m honored to note that he and I corresponded frequently.  We agreed on absolutely nothing but music.  We had fundamentally different views about family, politics, religion, etc.  And, he was not shy in expressing his views!  But, when it came to the music, we were in complete sympathy, and music friendship transcended and healed any differences we might have had.

Geoff was very much his own man, and I already feel his absence profoundly–even an ocean away. . . . an ocean of space and time.

Geoff’s closest friend, Jon Patrick, posted this a few hours ago:

Today we reach the shortest day, for some it will be the longest and a date we will always remember for a different reason. Today we will get together, many of us who can and Celebrate the life of Geoff Banks.

We will be surrounded by Geoff’s family and many, many of his friends. Together we will support each other in our grief at this time of the final farewell. Many tears have been shed, and will be. But we must always remember that Geoff Banks was a Rocker. In his honor we will Rock! For Geoff would want that. Today we celebrate a great friend. 

For those who can’t make it you will be all represented. I will read a message from Stacy Neuman who needs our love and support at this time, as do all the family. Stacy can’t be there and I know that is so very painful for her. I’ve been asked to close things.

I would like to personally that everyone for their wonderful support. A very special thank you to Damian Wilson who will perform a song for Geoff Banks. Damian’s friendship and unique look at life will be very much needed today.

For those who can, I will see you very soon. For those who can’t I know your thoughts, support and love will be with us. XXX

According to old Catholic belief, only the dead can dance.  Dance away, Geoff!

 

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.

The Genius Rages: The Tangent’s Le Sacre Du Travail (2013)

group ANNOUNCEMENT

Genius

Andy Tillison is a genius.  It must stated as bluntly as possible.  Tillison is a genius.  He’s a musical genius and a lyrical genius, but he’s also just a genius genius.  Actually, this might seem redundant, but it’s not.  Only genius could properly modify genius when it comes to Tillison’s art.

As I mentioned in a previous post on our beloved site, Progarchy, anything Tillison releases is not just an event, but a moment.  A real moment, not a fleeting one.  A moment of seriousness and reflection.

From the first I listened to The Tangent’s The Music That Died Alone, a full decade ago, I knew there was something special going on.  Not only did the cover art entrance me,  but the very depth and seriousness of the music captured my then 35-year old imagination.  I felt as though Tillison was speaking directly to me, asking me to remember the greatness of the musicians who came before 2003, but also inviting me–in a very meaningful fashion–to move forward with him.

cover_2458173122009The Music That Died Alone really serves as a powerful nexus between past and present, present and future, up and down, and every which way.  Only the evocative power of the lyrics match the classiness and free flow (though, we all know what makes something seem free is often a highly disciplined mind and soul) of the music.

At the time I first heard them, I mentally labeled The Tangent a “neo-Canterbury band,” but I was too limited in my imagination, and I would discover this very quickly.  Indeed, each subsequent The Tangent album offers new pleasures and paths for adventure, but always with that power of that Tillison nexus, connecting the past and the future with beauty.

Tillison makes this connection literal in his very fine novella, “Not as Good as the Book: A Midlife Crisis in a Minor.”  The dedication lists close to 100 names, including numerous members (first names only) of the members of various bands from Yes to ELP to The Flower Kings to Spock’s Beard to XTC and to authors such as Arthur C. Clarke and J.R.R. Tolkien.  None of this is contrived.  Just pure Tillison expressions of gratitude.not as good

Privileged (well, blessed, frankly, if you’ll pardon a blatant religious term) to receive a review copy of the new album, Le Sacre Du Travail (Out officially June 24, 2013 from InsideOut Music), I dove right into the music.  Full immersion.  With every album, Tillison has only improved.  Each album has bettered the already previous excellent album with even more classiness, more intensity, and more meaning.  Not an easy feat in this modern world of chaos and consumerist fetishes.

With this album, though, Tillison has moved forward the equivalent of several The Tangent albums.  Again, to be blunt, the album is mind-boggingly good.

Easy listening?  No.  Of course not.  It’s Tillison, it’s prog, and it’s excellent.  What part of those three things suggests easy.  No excellent thing is easy.  Can’t be.  It wouldn’t and couldn’t be excellent if easy.

Satisfying listening?  Oh, yes.  A thousand times, yes.

For one thing, Tillison has brought together some of the finest artists in the business.  I was convinced of the potential greatness of this new album when I first heard David Longdon (in my not so humble opinion, the finest voice in rock today) would appear on the album.  But, add a number of others in: Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Jakko Jakszyk (Level 42), Theo Travis (Soft Machine), and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree).  And, it doesn’t stop here.  Add Brian Watson (DPRP.net)’s spectacular art work and the cool dj voice of Geoff Banks (Prog Dog show).  Ok, this is one very, very solid lineup of the best of the best.

1913

Ten years ago, Tillison released the first The Tangent album.  100 years ago, Igor Stravinsky released what was arguably his masterpiece and certainly one of the finest pieces of music of the twentieth-century, The Rite of Spring.  While The Rite of Spring hasn’t pervaded our culture in the way the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony has, it’s a close second.  Every person, an appreciator of music or not, knows at least part of The Rite of Spring.

Imagine for a moment 1913.  It was, by almost every standard, the last great year of the optimism of western civilization.  Technology upon technology had produced innumerable advancements, almost everyone in the western world believed in unlimited progress, and even devout Christian artists (such as Stravinsky) had no problems embracing the greatest elements of paganism and folk culture.

In almost every way, Stravinsky explored not only the folk traditions of his era, but he embraced and, really, transcended the modernist movement in music.  He bested it.  His Rite is full of tensions and dissonance, but each of these is overruled and corrected by harmony and emergent joy.  The Rite, no matter how pagan, also has deep roots in the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions.  The Rite–the ritual, the liturgy–has been a part of western civilization since the pre-Socratics debated about the origins of the cycles of the world and history: earth, water, air, or fire.

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Imagine for a moment 2013.  Well, ok, just look around.  Technology remains exponential in its growth, but few would praise the development of the Atomic Bomb, the gas chamber, or the aerial bomber.  But, then, there’s the iPod.  And, unless you’re Steven Wilson, you probably think your iPod is ok.  Certainly better than an Atomic Bomb.

Optimism?  No.  I don’t need to go into detail, but, suffice it state, T.S. Eliot might very well have been correct when in the late 1940s he claimed the western world in an advancing stage of darkness:

the tower overthrown, the bells upturned, what have we to do

But stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards

In an age which advances progressively backwards?

The U.S. and the U.K. are currently waging numerous wars, and there seems to be no end in sight.

The Rite of Work

As with the Stravinsky of 1913, the Tillison of 2013 surveys the cultural landscape.  Unlike his Russian counterpart, the Yorkshire man finds little to celebrate in this whirligig of modernity.

The “good guy anarchist,” as he described himself in a recent interview (and, not to be too political, but more than one progarchist would be in great sympathy with Tillison on this point), Tillison observes not the Rite of Spring, but the liturgy of work.  We get up, we commute, we sit in our cubicle, we commute again, we eat, we drink, we have sex, we watch a little t.v., and we sleep.  The cycle beings again every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  Who made this deal, Tillison wisely asks.

Throughout it all–pure prog interspersed with very modernist musical elements from time to time–Tillison references much in our modern folk and popular culture, including The Sound of Music and Rush (2112):

In a Rush T-shirt, pony tail, 2112 tatooed on his hands

He’s a star through thick & thin

But he still gets that data in

A modern day warrior, today’s Tom Sawyer is a clerk

He’s a meta for disillusion

He’s a metaphor for life

But, interestingly enough, Tillison does all of this as a modern-day St. Thomas the Doubter.

But I don’t believe them, not ’til I see it

Until I put my finger in the holes

In every word, the lyrics rage against the conformity demanded in 2013–demanded by our corporations, our neighbors, and our governments.  What have we become. . . mere ants, living in a world of bird dung.  Certainly, whatever humanity remains has been given over to some institution radiating power.

And, yet, still somewhat in the persona of St. Thomas, Tillison asks us to reconsider our day-to-day rituals and liturgies.  Is it worth it that we squander what little time we have in the name of the mindless and soulless cycles of modern life?  By far the most powerful moment of an album of immense power (power in the good sense; not in the domineering sense):

‘Cos you can’t take it with you

There’s no luggage allowed

No you can’t take it with you

No matter how rich or proud

Your kids will sell it off on Ebay

For god’s sake don’t waste their time

‘Cos you can’t take it with you

You can leave just a little bit behind.

Summa

Well, what an album.  What an artist.  What a group of artists.  If any one ever again complains about the superficiality of rock music, consider handing them a copy of this CD.  No superficiality here.  Only beautiful–if at times gut wrenching–meaning.

Keep raging, Mr. Diskdrive.  Rage on.

To order the album (and you should, several times!), go here: http://www.thetangent.org/

Andy Tillison and Geoff Banks

4006205090_47d7dfd4e7If you’re free for the next 45 minutes, it’s definitely work checking into the Prog Dog Radio Show.

http://myradiostream.com/progdog

Geoff Banks is an excellent radio host, and Andy Tillison is an equally interesting guest.  Banks and Tillison are talking about the nature of progressive rock as well as engaging one another on a variety of topics.  On the nature of Prog: Geoff is arguing that prog is ”music that will stand the test of time.”  It is the classical music of our day.  Andy’s response: Progressive rock is “serious electric music.”

Andy, sounding very much like Owen Barfield or J.R.R. Tolkien of the Inklings stated that his brainchild, The Tangent, is much bigger than himself or a supergroup.  He hopes it will keep going long after he’s retired.

The chat room is especially interesting: Alison Henderson, Blake Carpenter (Minstrel’s Ghost), Sally Collyer, and Matt Stevens are all contributing.

Geoff Banks Best of 2012

2012 Banks Top 10This Sunday, 2pmEST, Geoff Banks will be presenting his ten best prog albums of the year.  Geoff is a master not only of prog, but he’s also an excellent host (no matter how humble he is about this).  Make sure you tune into his show, PROG DOG, this Sunday.

December 16: http://myradiostream.com/progdog

Enjoy.

Latest from Matt Stevens/Tangent

Photo © TheChaosEngineers. For information: info@thechaosengineers.com

Great news this weekend.  First, from Matt Stevens:

Hello Brad

Hope you’re good. It’s been crazy here, a weird kind of post gigging come down. The Jazz Cafe gig was great fun, they treat you well there, blimey. Dressing rooms and beer!

I made a Spotify playlist with a “best of” my solo stuff. Is there any chance you can share it on your Facebook, Twitter, Groups or on any Forums you are a member of? This stuff makes a MASSIVE difference to obscure/DIY artists like me. The URL is:

http://open.spotify.com/user/1117036918/playlist/0uecTVxzs6d4dIBdWiOYDc

I know Spotify is controversial but for me at the moment the important thing is to grow the audience for the music. Your help is really appreciated, thanks loads.

Also if anyone is voting in the Prog magazine reader awards at:

http://www.progrockmag.com/news/vote-in-our-2012-readers-poll/

And fancies voting for for Fierce and The Dead or me it would be really appreciated 🙂 Exposure in these sort of polls really helps 🙂 Hopefully all the gigging this year has raised the profile a bit…

I’ve no more gigs booked now so the next months will probably be a bit quiet while we write and record  the new Fierce and The Dead record and plan my new solo record. Busy busy. The new Fierce And The Dead demos sound really good. They may be some sort of Pledge Music type pre-order. I’ll let you know.

Also we’re planning to tour outside the UK so please let us know where you’d like to see us. Thanks 🙂

Speak soon,

Matt Stevens

http://www.fierceandthedead.com

http://www.mattstevensguitar.com

http://www.spencerparkmusic.com

mattstevensguitar@btinternet.com

 ***

And, I had the great privilege of listening to about 75 minutes of Geoff Banks’s Prog Dog Radio Show this afternoon.  He announced some exciting news from The Tangent.  Pre-sales for their next album will be open beginning tomorrow afternoon.

On Friday, The Tangent released this on their Facebook page:

OK Folks the wait is over here is the very first chance to hear BRAND NEW work (in progress) from THE TANGENT. email workday@thetangent.org to get updates and find out how you can be part of a pre-pre order campaign to support this project. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkOgivtLy_U

So much good coming out of the progressive rock community right now, it’s more than a bit overwhelming.  Of course, it’s the kind of overwhelming any lover of the genre craves.

 

 

Prog Dog 6 with Geoff Banks

Dear Progarchists, fabulous dj (despite what he says about himself!) and prog master, Geoff Banks, has a weekly radio-internet show called the Prog Dog show.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his program over the last several weeks.  For those of us in EST, it begins at 2pm.

http://myradiostream.com/progdog

His own description of today’s show: “Join me for 2 hrs of scintillating music courtesy of IQ, The Plastic People Of The Universe, Thomas Dolby, Siddhartha, PFM, Public Image, Hatfield and The North, Hawkwind, FPOA, Pink Floyd, Sigur Ros and much much more.”

At the same website as the stream, you can also join in the chat room, upper right corner of the screen.  Banks and followers are as witty as they are knowledgable.  Enjoy!