Feature: Andy Tillison of The Tangent takes us through ‘Auto Reconnaissance’ track by track

WHAT started life as a side project – a chance for Andy Tillison, Parallel or 90 Degrees keyboard player, to kick back and explore some other deep musical avenues in the company of like minds – has really taken on a life of its own this past decade.

Beginning with the twin-suite sequence of The Music Died Alone back in 2003, The Tangent have just released their eleventh studio album, Auto Reconnaissance, for InsideOut Music.

It follows their progressive path right out there; there’s a sprinkling of poppier numbers, but there’s plenty of room to expand in their 28-minute paean to their homeland, “Lie Back & Think Of England”, and the 16-minute fusion of “Lost In New Jersey”.

And in an exclusive for Backseat Mafia, The Tangent’s head honcho Andy is taking us through the new opus, track by track. We’ve even embedded the YouTube for “Life On Hold” down there at the end, so you can have a paddle in The Tangent’s waters.

Let’s leave you in the capable hands of Andy, and begin – well, at the beginning:

Life On Hold

This is a cheerful, uptempo prog rock tune about learning: particularly the type of learning we “like” to do … like knowing all the drummers in King Crimson and all the models of Ferraris. Perhaps knowing how things work even if we don’t need to. The song’s title is a reflection on how we are prepared to give so much of our lives to this learning and not a reference to the lockdown!

Jinxed In Jersey

A little travelogue of an adventure I had in Jersey City when I was walking to see the Statue Of Liberty. It’s a very varied piece stylistically and is built on my love of Canterbury Scene music from the 70s added to modern urban dance grooves and the occasional blast of djent. A lot of different experiences came  to me on that day, and I needed a lot of styles to  tell the story!

Under Your Spell

I have written 11 albums for The Tangent; this time I decided it was time to write a nice love song for my girlfriend, Sally. We have been together for 12 years and just because I’m in a prog rock band doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a nice song. In a different time the world would have made me rich on this song. Ha ha. I am more happy with the fact that we are happy! This song reflects that.

The Tower Of Babel

This is a cynical pop song about the way technology is changing our way of life at government level.  I think that many countries that like to think of themselves as “democracies” are now stealthily becoming more like technocracies. That implies the replacement of “demos” (the people) with “techno”… and this is really having an effect on humanity. We are all gradually being reduced to being our own avatars, which are simply physical representations of our bank accounts, records, files and paper history. In this respect, the records of us are more important than we are ourselves.

Lie Back And Think Of England

I am only supposed to write 100 words about each song, but this one song lasts longer than six by most other bands! This is a personal reflection on what Britain has been through in the three years since the Brexit referendum.  It’s a look at the way we fought each other, grew to hate each other and have nasty names for each other. It’s about the way we let this act of media driven navel-gazing dominate so much of our lives. Most of all it’s a song that looks at the fact that whatever the political decisions we take that seem so important at the time, the rocks and the stones that stop us falling into the sea are more important than any of the arguing … and the song is an appeal for us all in this country to stop fighting each other, and to start forgiving so we can move forward.  I personally think that this piece is one where I have achieved what I set out to do. I am very happy with it. And yes. I am a hippy. Peace, love and understanding. And dogs.

The Tangent’s Andy Tillison

The Midas Touch

I woke up in the middle of winter last year to find the sun blazing down on the most beautiful-looking England. We had had weeks of rain and grey skies and this sudden beautiful day made me feel so good that I wrote the song there and then. It’s a song of joy and optimism, that through all bad times the light at the end of the tunnel is still getting brighter. I was inspired by “Summer Songs” from artists like Earth Wind & Fire’s “September” and the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze” to write this song about a winter’s day.  I hope it makes you feel good!

The Tangent’s Auto Reconnaissance is out now on limited CD, 2xLP and digital formats via InsideOut Music. Order your copy here or from The Tangent direct, here.

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