“Possibly the nearest Tillison has ever come to prog metal, with a punchy bass riff that could be a Drama-era Chris Squire outtake”: The Tangent’s To Follow Polaris

A completely solo work from beginning to end, 13th outing is an experiment that’s resulted in astounding triumph

The Tangent - To Follow Polaris
(Image: © InsideOut)

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Over the last two decades Andy Tillison has utilised a shifting array of top prog talent as his de facto backing band The Tangent. However, the practicalities of recording some of the most in-demand musicians in the prog sphere – including Jonas Reingold, Luke Machin and Steve Roberts – has meant that the 13th album under the Tangent banner has moved away from what was dangerously beginning to look like a settled line-up.

To Follow Polaris is truly a solo endeavour. Everything about it, from concept to artwork, lyrics to production, every note played to final mix, is solely Tillison’s work. And every note is played in real time; no special guests, no programming and – as he’s absolutely emphatic about – no AI!

The main album is bookended by two compositions that resonate similarly, musically at least, and allow Tillison to explore a bit of jaunty prog pop and an element of hopefulness and light. Opener The North Sky and closer The Single are built on upbeat foundations that bring to mind the directness of tracks like the band’s A Spark In The Aether.

The North Sky is a high-energy celebration including an extended instrumental intro then lovely, simple yet effective backing vocals, and keyboard and guitar explorations during the lengthy, more gentle and spacious middle section as it builds back to the main hook.

Tillison has added an important chapter to The Tangent story

The shrewdly titled A ‘Like’ In The Darkness takes things in a slightly more introspective direction, albeit with a frenetic couple of minutes towards the end, featuring Tillison’s use of a digital wind controller to mimic woodwind. Sultry jazz-tinged The Fine Line continues the reflective slant and seems to hark back to some of the first couple of albums.

The usual Tangent multipart epic requirement is fulfilled by the 20-minute The Anachronism. Opening with an understated synth underpinning some recorded spoken word, it explodes into possibly the nearest Tillison has ever come to prog metal, interspersed with cool 70s funk strains.

The track continues in this vein – sections veer from quiet and knowing through to punky aggression via big musical statements that bring to mind his admitted influences, including a tremendously punchy bass riff that could easily be a Drama-era Chris Squire outtake.

Tillison embarked on this journey as an experiment, simply to see if it would be possible. Not only has he succeeded beyond expectation, but he’s added an important chapter to The Tangent story. It’s an astounding triumph.

To Follow Polaris is on sale now via InsideOut.

Gary Mackenzie

Gary has contributed reviews and news features for Prog Magazine for over a decade now. A fan of prog and heavy rock since childhood, his main areas of interest are classic and symphonic prog, prog-metal and modern acts bringing in fresh influences to the genre. He has a professional background in youth and community work, he teaches drum kit in schools and is a working musician. Gary was the drummer in semi-legendary NWOBHM band Praying Mantis for a couple of years and has been a member of indie-prog-pop-art-rock combo The Mighty Handful for more than twenty years. He loves cats and skiing, and has a Blue Peter badge.