The Tangent, despite having been around for fifteen years, are quite likely one of the best prog rock bands you’ve never heard of. They’re lauded by their musical peers and their fans devour their every release. The fact they’re held in high esteem in the prog world can be seen by their last studio album, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery, figuring in the top 5 albums for 2017 in Prog magazine’s end of year poll, plus three members of the band featuring in the best muso columns.
Their latest studio album, Proxy, whilst being firmly grounded in prog, is a subtle mixture of conflicting and contrasting styles, with any number of conflicting influences being drawn upon. It begins with the title track, ‘Proxy’, a mix of shrieking synths, humming Hammonds and a flurry of bass and drums, and the band’s prog influences, from Caravan to Camel, are there for all to see. It’s a sixteen minute protest piece about how wars are increasingly fought, not by the two main protagonists, but by smaller nations and armies fighting under the banner and protection of larger players ..war being waged by proxy. Tangent mainman Andy Tilson has never shied away from including political references in his work and he’s unapologetic. “Some people think politics doesn’t belong in prog, but prog came from the counterculture and we’re retaining the connection.”
The instrumental track, ‘The Melting Andalusian Skies’, contains no social commentary. After a jazzy piano intro, the track evolves into a kind of mid-seventies Soft Machine/Chick Corea groove. ‘A Case of Misplaced Optimism’ has a very jazzy, funk feel, and it sees The Tangent attempting to steer a midway path somewhere between Porcupine Tree and Jamiroquai.
‘The Adulthood Lie’, also a sixteen minute piece, is a commentary about Ibiza, rave culture and getting older, and how Andy Tilson almost got caught up in it but, instead, become enmeshed in the ‘adulthood lie.’ However, the bets track of the album is ‘Suppers Off’ where, amongst other things, Andy Tilson, pours scorn on those who were at Woodstock but went on to be players on the seventies stock market soon after.
As befits the quality of the musicians involved, Proxy is a very well written and well played album and reinforces the reputation of The Tangent as a prog band. The quality of the music on offer gives this album a deserved edge, and anyone who enjoys listening to intelligent prog rock will find something here to enjoy.