Pas­sion­ate polemics for the here and now on al­bum num­ber 10.

Prog - - The Musical Box - SID SMITH

Nos­tal­gia can be a dan­ger­ous place if you spend too long lan­guish­ing in its cap­ti­vat­ing em­brace. The de­sire to re-ex­pe­ri­ence a taste of the time and place of our past can not only be ad­dic­tive but can eas­ily switch from bit­ter­sweet plea­sure to an ob­ses­sion that de­fies ra­tio­nal­ity. One need only look at the nos­tal­gic ideas in­fest­ing the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive across both sides of the At­lantic for proof of this. When it comes to mu­sic it seems that, re­gard­less of the genre, the past is con­stantly en­croach­ing upon the present. Like some oc­cu­py­ing army with an ar­se­nal of retro sounds, re­treads and ref­er­ences, it’s very hard for


any­one to sound dif­fer­ent and fresh, never mind gen­uinely in­no­va­tive, with too many groups pil­ing on the Mel­lotron or revving up a mini-Moog in lieu of any­thing in­ter­est­ing to say.

While key­boardist Andy Til­li­son is of­ten will­ing to set his os­cil­la­tors to max­i­mum wig-out mode, it’s ic­ing on the cake and never as a sub­sti­tute for an in­tri­cate mo­tif or a dra­matic ex­ten­sion. With Proxy’s five tracks work­ing as a kind of ex­tended suite, the long-form writ­ing dis­played here is beau­ti­fully crafted. There are few com­posers work­ing in the field that can claim to be as rig­or­ous or as ex­act­ing as Til­li­son.

Not for the first time, the polemics hard-wired into The Tan­gent’s lyrics recog­nise nos­tal­gia’s se­duc­tive­ness as well as the traps it can set for bands op­er­at­ing in con­tem­po­rary pro­gres­sive rock. On the fu­ri­ous j’ac­cuse of Sup­per’s Off he spits out, ‘I was born into a time when peo­ple walked on the moon/When bands wrote sym­phonies and tone po­ems.’ In those words you can hear the won­der and in­credulity ul­ti­mately re­placed by be­wil­dered anger as he rails about the col­lapse of artis­tic as­pi­ra­tion and the race to the bot­tom: ‘I find my­self part of a gen­er­a­tion that lapped up wealth/That cre­ated Si­mon Cow­ell.’ The ap­pear­ance of Richard Farnsworth’s voice and his line from David Lynch’s The Straight Story, “the worst part of be­ing old is re­mem­berin’ when you was young’’, hangs poignantly in the at­mos­phere.

With the ti­tle track tak­ing aim at gov­ern­ment’s im­pe­ri­al­ist ex­cesses, the in­dig­na­tion posited in the words finds a per­fect ve­hi­cle for their ex­pres­sion in spikey and com­bat­ive ar­range­ments, which bar­rel along with a re­mark­able, unswerving velocity. Re­peated lis­ten­ing re­veals a mul­ti­tude of de­tails eas­ily missed first time around. Ex­quis­ite work from gui­tarist Luke Machin, bas­sist Jonas Rein­gold and Steve Roberts’ propul­sive drum­ming, as well as de­ci­sive con­tri­bu­tions from sax and flute from Theo Travis, all lend Proxy an ef­fort­less agility.

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