Never judge a book by its cover, they say, and in Tilt’s case, such advice is well founded. On paper you might expect three members of Fish’s band to be making music indebted to that of their illustrious paymaster. In fact, reflecting a set of diverse CVs that includes Deacon Blue and Sugarbabes alongside Camel, Tilt’s full-length debut, Hinterland, offers a sumptuous mix of hard rock, pop and more ambient themes.
The group’s core – Steve Vantsis, Robin Boult and Dave Stewart – began colluding while backing Fish. The result was a debut five-song EP called Million Dollar Wound, featuring three lead singers. However, their decision to forge ahead with just one frontman has paid dividends. Though pretty much an unknown quantity till now, a strong emotive delivery places Edinburgh native PJ Dourley among the most exciting discoveries of recent years.
For the longest time it wasn’t an album, more like a Dropbox file that we would all add our little bits and pieces to.
Another of the album’s joys is the electronic aspect brought by guitarist/keysman Paul Humphreys, whose enticing layers of looped sound transform the music completely. “I adore Nine Inch Nails,” Humphreys explains, “and I really enjoyed trying to integrate those atmospheric elements into our band.”
With membership dispersed across the UK, Hinterland took five painstaking years to conceive, pieced together via the internet. Incredibly, the band members have yet to share oxygen in a room together.
“For the longest time it wasn’t an album, more like a Dropbox file that we would all add our little bits and pieces to,” Humphreys marvels. “But next time, we’ll go somewhere and do everything together.”
Given that Tilt’s music is a form of intelligent pop cunningly disguised as prog, some critics, including our own Philip Wilding (see last issue’s review), have compared them to Porcupine Tree. “There is a connection: Steven Wilson produced an album for Fish [1997’s Sunsets On Empire],” Robin Boult responds, “and they’re a great band, so that doesn’t bother me at all.”
Produced and arranged by Vantsis, Hinterland includes cameos from the seemingly omnipresent John Mitchell of Frost*, among others. There are also another couple of Fish-associated players: John Wesley on guitar and It Bites’ John Beck on keys.
“When it came to mixing we wanted something a little different, and with such a great set of ears, John Mitchell was the man to do it,” Boult explains.
The lyrics, penned mostly by Dourley, are every bit as fascinating as the music. Growing Colder, for instance seems to be a countdown towards death, while the strontium referred to in Strontium Burning is a chemical used to treat prostate cancer. Elsewhere, during Bloodline, Dourley sings, ‘I have to live with diseases.’
“The album is bleak in places, but I’d like to think there’s hope there too,” Vantsis says.
A clip for the track Against The Rain sees Fish’s daughter Tara Nowy re-enacting her mum’s role in the promo for Kayleigh, but as for seeing the band in the flesh, those aforementioned geographical issues have prevented Tilt from playing live. However, they plan to break their duck ahead of a confirmed date at Holland’s Progdreams Festival next year.
|Steve Vantsis (bass, keys, loops), Robin Boult (guitar), Paul Humphreys (guitar, keys, loops), PJ Dourley (vocals), Dave Stewart (drums)|
|The music flits from a whisper to a roar but never loses its melodic hold|
|Hinterland is out now via Tilt Music|