Over the course of their thirteen year history, UK prog rockers The Tangent have undergone several personnel shifts and taken altered musical paths, including their previous 2013 album Le Sacre du Travail (InsideOut) which took a melancholic turn into more orchestral territory; an effort which was as grandiose as it was difficult to delve into for newcomers.
Now after yet another lineup dissolution, founding and sole original member (and leader) Andy Tillison has brought in a few familiar faces in the shape of Jonas Reingold, Theo Travis, Luke Machin and Morgan Agren; and a new album that sees a return to their classic prog rock roots. To give its full title A Spark In The Aether: The Music That Died Alone – Volume Two (InsideOut) represents a nod to their debut, and the influential artists of prog’s golden era.
Where their previous album was a much more sullen affair than usually expected, A Spark…is strikingly upbeat and colourful. Opening track ‘A Spark In The Aether’ is a particularly joyous number, with its immediate and familiar synth tone and buoyant tempo. What’s also prominent is how immediate the album is, even despite its unwavering excess that classic prog is notorious for. Only one track goes past the 20 minute mark; the glorious ‘The Celluloid Road’ which still captivates throughout.
There are signs of a loose concept about prog rock, and in particular its golden era of the 70’s, notably over ‘Codpieces & Capes’ and the following ‘Clearing The Attic’. The former clearly pays homage to the cartoonlike but endearing characteristics of the likes of Jethro Tull, whilst lyrically it follows the loyal prog fan as he wonders whether one’s prog idols care, making reference to both the past and present. It even throws in a cheeky reference to Neal Morse’s relatively new found Christianity. The latter also references the state of prog, even incorporating intricate, seemingly improvised jazz elements.
All throughout A Spark… proves the perfect blend of classic sounding progressive rock, which has the warmth of the classics but does so with its own sense of identity. All the while making clear, uncryptic references to such music sonically and lyrically; both tongue in cheek and celebratory. A magnificent return for one of contemporary prog’s stalwarts.