I’ve been into The Tangent right from the release of “The Music That Died Alone.” Since that amazing debut album, the band have been very “up and down” for me. Good album, average album, great album, bad album. So I am always a tad concerned about a new album, especially if I liked the last one. And I did like “Proxy.” One thing that boded well for the new album “Auto Reconnaissance” is that the lineup is the same as the last album and I am not sure that’s ever happened before! Other than bandleader Andy Tillison, the band has had more turnover than King Crimson or Yes or…well you get the idea!
With that stability, The Tangent definitely benefit musically. The songs are strong and the performance is top notch. Bassist Jonas Reinhold (The Flower Kings) shows off his abilities on the opener “Life on Hold.” Great song! The problem with “Jinxed in Jersey” is not the music, which is very jazzy and proggy. The problem is way way too much spoken word. Tillison is telling a story which is humorous to be sure (he’s good at that) but being someone that detests talking over music, it gets old really fast. Now I know Tillison is not the greatest singer in the world but it’s better than listening to a story that I won’t need to hear again. Oh well.
“Under Your Spell” showcases the melodic side of The Tangent, wait…they have one? This is somewhere between Philly soul and prog. I do enjoy it too. I hear a bit of Spandau Ballet too. The guitar solos by Luke Machin are so tasty and serve the song. The Tangent aren’t always concerned about serving the song so it’s nice to hear that they can focus more than usual. Theo Travis adds some sweet sax work to the track as well. Very nice. “The Tower of Babel” reminds me a little bit of Steely Dan musically. The song has that jazz groove that they are/were known for. It does have an odd melody but well that’s just how Andy is. It’s a wise choice for a first single/video.
The Tangent are known for their epics and “Auto Reconnaissance” has some. “Jinxed in Jersey” is 16 minutes but “Lie Back & Think of England” is over 28 minutes. Poignant then jazzy and of course over the top. Tillison reflects on his homeland which is relatable on a global level. The samples really work well on this one. Remember that whole spoken word problem I have? Well an over use of samples can fall into that bucket but fortunately these work well with the mood that’s being set. What seems like the chorus 5 minutes has a solid hook within the myriad of notes that are firing all around. The bottom line is that this epic is very good. It doesn’t rank with some of the early epics that Tillison penned but it is a great centerpiece for the album as a whole.
“The Midas Touch” is more “bit sized” at just under 6 minutes. And it’s actually funky! Reinhold gets a great groove going. I LOVE the synth used on it. Musically, it’s my favorite song…ok it’s my favorite song on the album period. “Proxima” is the 12 and 1/2 minute bonus track. Why anyone would buy an album without the bonus tracks baffles me! Unless the tracks are shitty demos or something. “Proxima” is part ambient, part jazz and all great! This instrumental shows the various sides of the band and is amazing stuff.
It’s great to hear The Tangent on a creative roll. “Auto Reconnaissance” breaks the trend that I have had with them and it’s as good as their last album “Proxy.” It ranks along side other releases like “A Spark in the Aether” and “A Place in the Queue.” If you’ve ever enjoyed Andy and the band, I think you’ll like this one too. The Tangent wear the prog badge proudly and mix the current prog sound with tons of classic musical references.
Label: Inside Out Music
Release date: August 21, 2020