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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Tangent

The World That We Drive Through

Review by Josh Turner

With all the hype, this was setting itself up to be the disappointment of the year. So, how good is The World That We Drive Through? Does it live up to the expectations? After weeks of shuffling through new releases like an attention-deficit teen in history class, I finally found an album that has kept my attention for several days (and counting). Yes, I'm talking about The Tangent's The World That We Drive Through. While previously sitting towards the back of the room in a state of limbo, I'm now glued to my seat at the head of the class. My ears are tuned in to every lyric in the lesson. The album is everything I hoped it would be. Immediately, I hear jazz and orchestral arrangements along with influences ranging from classical to modern progressive rock. The ELP element is much more obvious here than in the debut. Furthermore, The Flower Kings bring their special style into the mix. Who could ask for anything more? Rather than boring us with the world that we drive through each and every day, this is some alternate reality where dreams actually do come true. While The Music That Died Alone may have been album of the year when it came out, the sequel is equally engrossing. If The Tangent truly died, trust me, the band has resurrected itself big-time on this release.

To pull off such an astounding album requires a plethora of talent. Andy Tillison, Sam Baine, Guy Manning, and Theo Travis are sterling silver. The Flower Kings are the polish that makes it shine ever so brightly. Jonas' bass is bold and beautiful. Roine's vocals are one of a kind and his guitar is simply gorgeous. Zoltan's drums dazzle twice as much as they had on the last. Together, these seven individuals combine to make one big shiny gem. Without fixing what isn't already broken, one tweak works greatly in its favor. While David Jackson's absence could have caused a major catastrophe, Theo picks up the fumbled ball and keeps the momentum going. He scores many times with consistent contributions and puts the game completely out of reach. In a way, Theo's style melds better with the music than David's. Theo shows so much skill and finesse with the flute and sax that it somehow manages to surpass the performance of this legendary predecessor.

Inquiring minds probably want to know whether or not The Tangent has created another album of the year. With material this good, it seems the only way they can lose is by putting out another release in the same year. Playing devil's advocate and splitting hairs a tad bit more, Karmakanic's Wheel of Life is another outstanding release that could ultimately edge it out. In the end, it's a toss up that's too difficult to call. After swift deliberation, the verdict is in. This is an open and shut case from this juror's perspective. The Tangent has created another winner that can contend with any of the all-time greats. I doubt any fan will disagree with this judgment once they have all the evidence before them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Winning Game
While The Music That Died Alone has an opening that is instantly bombastic, this album begins with an orchestration that is more of a slow climber. The flutes and sax peep out from the impending forest. Shortly thereafter, the music takes an abrupt descent before settling at a coasting altitude. Theo's sax really adds a lot of depth to this song. This is a cross between Transatlantic, The Flower Kings, and Kaipa. Roine's stamp is all over this track. Some elements of the earlier album crop up here as well.

Skipping The Distance
This is a clear reminder of Karmakanic. Jonas bass fizzes like freshly poured champagne. This is confirmation that The Tangent is by no means a one-hit wonder. The song has tight melodies and twisted transitions. Not only is this a highlight of the album, it is one of the best songs of the year. I put it right up there with Karmakanic's "Where Earth Meets The Sky" and "At the Speed Of Light" I hold these two songs in high regard and "Skipping The Distance" joins them both in happy matrimony. Early on there are aspects of Spock's Beard. In the middle, one will hear the Flower Kings from their earlier era. Later, Unfold the Future is found. The song finishes in the kingdom of Kaipa's Keyholder. Theo once again adds some unusually clever bits. As accessible as this track can be, it is still completely uncommon and quite intelligible.
Photosynthesis
This is the slowest and gentlest piece. It is mostly vocals with a piano. The drums are jazzy while the sax makes an occasional appearance. The remaining instruments are muted most of the time. The vocal harmonies offset by Andy's solo vocals make this a tasteful tune. Towards the end, this dish is spiced up a bit. The instruments come forward to season its conclusion with some brisk whisks of the pepper shaker.
The World That We Drive Through
The title track is a great song. The length is perfect and it follows an outline with many recurring themes. The ELP moments are charismatic and debonair without getting too pretentious. It is an adventurous track with many fun sequences. There is even a passage that seems a lot like "Snow's Night Off" from Spock's Beard's Snow. Much attention is given to the lyrics. While it is very easy to make out what Andy is saying (he carefully enunciates each and every syllable), the meanings behind the words takes some thought. This is a track that deserves many listens.
A Gap In The Night
While the vocals are similar to what is found in Parallel or 90 Degrees and Guy Manning's The View From My Window, the instrumentals have closer relations to Transatlantic in the family tree. This epic takes us many glorious places while Andy's keyboard-playing style continues to bear a resemblance to Keith Emerson. This track goes through cloud nine and seventh heaven before reaching a destination that is pure paradise. In a disc that has been solid up to this point, the album brings out its best characteristics in the final few minutes.

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