Saturday, November 4, 2017

Vinyl in Sight: The Slow Rust Of Forgotten Machinery by The Tangent

'The Album' as a musical format was born on vinyl, and it continues to lead an active, fulfilling life there. On this edition of Vinyl in Sight, we take a look at EU Proggers The Tangent's latest masterpiece, The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or, "Where Do We Draw the Line Now?")We have a full review essay for TSROFM over at Progradar, but the artwork and vinyl experience for this album are so fantastic that the LP deserves its own review. This is in large part due to the stunning images from Mark Buckingham (comic book art for Generation X, Fables, covers for The Fierce And The Dead, etc.), though the overall design and sound recommend themselves highly.

On the Platter

Buckingham's art (with colours by Chris Blythe) perfectly captures and re-expresses the political and emotional core of the album: Too much talk, not enough heart. "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaketh," says what some call The Good Book. What then of those who spew hot gas, whose blow-hardiness is a defining feature? Rhetoric without Logic is bad enough, but perhaps there is something worse: perhaps Heartless Speech damages Humanity worse than any concrete wall or mere political disagreement ever could. This sobering truth asserts itself in the gatefold:

 "The ACTUAL Story" is their story; it's the story we hear when we listen to the oppressed with open ears and open hearts. When we insist on inserting ourselves into the story, when we dictate the meaning of the story, we set ourselves up as a barrier to Humanity itself.

In this spirit, the art & packaging for the vinyl LP open space for the album's story with numerous cartoons and annotations along with full lyrics that develop the background and details for the songs beyond what is sung. The labels for each side are clean, vibrant, and unique though centered around a common aesthetic. Andy Tillison & Co. have a bit of fun here, as well. Guitarist Luke Machin is credited with lyrics for the instrumental "Doctor Livingstone (I Presume)," while the label for "A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road" pokes the bear a bit by crediting Tillison only with the arrangement—a cadre of particularly rancorous politicians and media personalities are named as the writers of the song. The discs themselves are clean, well-pressed, and feel substantial in the hand. They really didn't require any cleaning before play, and the holes were cut perfectly (secure but not too tight on the spindle). As usual, Inside Out Music releases only the highest quality vinyl pressing and packaging. The only disappointment in the packaging is that it lacks one or two illustrations from the CD digi-pack version, as well as the list of pre-pre-order supporters and a two-page (in the CD booklet) essay, "Where Are They Now?" Given the high cost of new vinyl compared with other formats, it's unfortunate when design elements have to be left out in the name of not raising the price further.

Oh, and there's a bit of an Easter egg on the label for Side 2 of LP 2—Side forty eight, eh? What's that all about? A song for The Remainers, perhaps?

In the Grooves

As we've already reviewed the music at Progradar, we'll focus here on the sonic experience of the album on vinyl. First things first: Jonas Reingold deserves to be heard in this medium. Of course, vinyl enthusiasts will be familiar with its advantages for reproducing low frequencies (given a good master), and that advantage is on full display on The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery. Reingold's bass is so massive, forceful, and acrobatic all over the album, and it's especially punchy and prominent in the LP grooves. On the high end, Machin's piercing guitar leads and Theo Travis' whirling wind instruments are wonderfully defined and sustained. The vocals benefit as well, especially when Marie-Eve de Gualtier and Tillison are singing together. Gualtier's voice sounds all the more delicate and atmospheric in the warmth of the vinyl. For those tired of hearing about the medium's 'warmth', let's say that there is a spaciousness and quality of air here that augments the clarity and tone of the complex and sometimes dense musical performances.

Again, the only drawback to this edition of the album stems from what is not included, namely, the excellent and very fun "Basildonxit" from the CD digi-pack edition. It would have been a tight fit and probably ill-advised squeeze without an additional side of vinyl, but it would be nice if the song had appeared on the CD included in the jacket pocket. In a more perfect world, the song would have accompanied the album as the A side of its own 7" record, backed perhaps with a short edit from the epic "Slow Rust." Nonetheless, the overall quality of The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery on vinyl warrants its purchase, even sans the bonus track. Our favourite album of 2017 paired with our favourite way to listen to music? Recommended without reservation.

The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery by The Tangent is available via the band's own webstore or, with a lower shipping cost for those in North America, from LaserCD.

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