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The Tangent - Le Sacre Du Travail CD (album) cover


The Tangent


Eclectic Prog

3.99 | 337 ratings

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Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars For their seventh album, English collective The Tangent, led by one of modern prog's most talented keyboard players Andy Tillison, deliver their most varied, complex and ambitious work to date with 2013's `Le Sacre du Travail', translating to `The Rite of Work'. Anyone familiar with the group will know to expect an eclectic mix of keyboard dominated prog, with plenty of Canterbury Scene jazzy fusion flavours and symphonic themes, and this time around there's plenty of orchestral flourishes to bring just a little sweeping cinematic drama as well. In addition to all the expected colourful instrumental passages, as always Tillison delivers a biting social commentary lyric with his expected weary yet affecting lead vocal, wrapped up together with plenty of strong melodies and surprisingly effective and smooth group harmonies as well.

The dazzling and diverse keyboard player Tillison is joined this time around by a variety of musical guests from several other notable bands, many of them already sharing an involvement with Tangent albums past. The inclusion of regular contributor Jonas Reingold of Swedish symphonic champions The Flower Kings makes this a must-buy instant purchase, and as always the skilled musician delivers a fluid, emotional and subtle performance. Modern Canterbury sound legend Theo Travis offers his always dignified and sprightly sax, flute and clarinet, and both Jakko Jakkszyk of 21st Century Schizoid Band and Guy Manning provide some extra some vocals and guitars. Rikard Sj÷blom of Beardfish recites the opening narrated passage, returning the favour that Andy himself delivered on their `The Void' album a few years back. David Longdon of Big Big Train, who have been enjoying a raised status in the modern prog community since their `Underfall Yard' album a few years back, has a memorable extended vocal passage during one of the epics, and Gavin Harrison of the last several Porcupine Tree albums will also likely be a big drawcard here, and he has never sounded so varied, complex and freed.

The album is broken into five movements, mostly of longer, wonderfully self-indulgent blown-out prog epics, but with some shorter interludes and lots of classical elements in between. The main concept deals with the day to day monotonous grind of the lowly worker, and as usual, Tillison's lyrics divert in all different directions and are peppered with witty (and frequently cutting!) observations, poignant reflections and dark deadpan humour, all woven to a low-key science-fiction narrative. Even more admirable is that he places just as much importance on these strong lyrics to go with all the flashy instrumental showing-off, something many more prog bands should keep in mind.

The opening scene-setting narration quickly gives way to a quirky and playful classical overture punctuated with fleeting moments of bombastic ELP/`Pictures at an Exhibition'-like synth pomp, as wistful flute, carefully announcing drumming and restrained electric guitar strains begin to emerge. Memories of the Moody Blues' `Days of Future Pass' ring throughout the early AM start of the workday in the first of two lengthy epics, `Morning Journey and Arrival'. A stark sombre piano gloomily tiptoes behind a weary lamenting vocal from Andy. Gentle tortured electric guitar burns slowly as tense orchestration swells, leading to an aggressive synth outbreak over scornful vocal barking, moving through flighty drumming and delicate sax for a gentle Canterbury Sound trip. Hammond organ purrs and melancholic group vocal sighs over weeping Mellotron defeated by breezy slinking grooves and smoothly pleasing vocal harmonies with cheeky flute - phew! A livelier foot-tapping finale even calls to mind `Grey and Pink'-era Caravan!

After an uneasy almost chamber prog introduction to `Afternoon Malaise', the band heads right back into Canterbury territory with boisterous sax, trilling flute and rip-roaring murmuring bass over jazzy patterings. A dash of early-prog Hammond fire, mellow chilled grooves, more silken harmonies and a dashing Moog solo race to the finish, and a grand synth finale would sound victorious if not for the very bleak lyric! `A Voyage Through Rush-Hour' is a fleeting stirring orchestral break highlighted by dramatic piano that builds in sneaky urgency and jumps up with quick manic bursts like taunting little mental breakdowns! With the dreaded work-day done, `Evening TV' is a little more relaxed and almost joyous, with break-neck synth fanfares, insistent drum rolls and splintering chunky bass grumbles all sounding a little like Yes. Dark introspection and the reality of banality soon creeps in, but it still closes the album in a much more upbeat and excited fashion than expected.

So perhaps Andy still sometimes over-reaches vocally here and there (pretty much a bit of a Tangent trademark by this point!), and `Le Sacre du Travail' is not initially as instantly pleasing on the surface as previous Tangent works, but on repeated listens so much appreciation and admiration starts to grow immensely to deliver a wholly satisfying and intelligent work. This is a sophisticated, thought-provoking and very confident suite of music that will take some time to truly grasp all its many facets, but it's further proof of a group of musicians playing at the top of their game, and an artist in Tillison who only keeps reaching higher with each new work and climbing above every single time.

Four and a half stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |


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