Although their name is the kind that I feel like I’ve heard a million times before, I had never heard of The Tangent until a couple weeks back. Apparently they have only been around since 2002 and have already released ten studio albums. Their newest effort, A Spark In The Aether, presents a varied palette of concepts and ideas, ranging back to the prog of days of yore, to modern neo-prog.
Electronic elements are heavy handed within the album, with loads and loads of synth work that feels very similar to the likes of Frost*. The electro vibe keeps a smooth roll all the way through and remains unobtrusive and supportive in regards to the rest of the music. Jazz also manages to sneak its way into the sound, by means of saxophone and lighter up beat pacing. Unlike Haken’s trademark speed jazz fusion mix, The Tangent keep things mellow and flowing as they incorporate their own jazzy filter. The overall feel and direction of the album seems to take a page from Echolyn’s The End is Beautiful in overarching themes on the human condition, and employs very similar pacing and interconnectedness in the development of the sound. While such a combination of attributes could certainly result in a train wreck of a performance, it seems that The Tangent are capable of managing the wide variety into a sensible and interesting performance.
While there is an undeniable dosage of modern prog within the sound, at the same time there is also the distinct hazy strangeness of elder prog present in the music. The similarities with Jethro Tull and the stylings of Ian Anderson are staggering. The clearest examples of these are found in the vocals which sound really similar to Anderson‘s, both in their lyricism and tempo, not to mention the many flute sections that sound as if they were adapted straight from Aqualung. The melding of the present and the past gives the band a deep source to draw upon that only serves to benefit the music, allowing them to play around with multiple ideas that are already proven to be effective. The one downside of the album is the bloated run time, in the ballpark of one hour spread out over the course of six songs, which has a devastating impact on the album’s ability to be concise.
The Tangent honours the old while experimenting with the new. While this is in itself a noble endeavour, they also manage to produce some solid music from this philosophy. Although there is certainly some fat that could have been trimmed, there are enough unique and intriguing elements to keep listeners interested. Even though I can’t speak for the band’s previous body of work, if Spark In The Aether is a reliable representative, it is safe to say that they’re going strong.
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