Tangents' 'New Bodies' Is Unlike Any Other Record You'll Hear This Year

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Shapeshifting Sydney quintet Tangents burn the genre maps and follow their impeccable improv instincts on New Bodies.

New Bodies

Temporary Residence Ltd

15 June 2018

Tangents' post-genre intentions were clear on their 2016 album, Stateless. New Bodies, their third full length (and second for the Temporary Residence Ltd. label), carries their poly-mode over into seven instrumental, improv-fed showcases of their increasingly ambitious work.

No doubt the 'new bodies' that the shapeshifting Sydney quintet are contemplating in the album's title are not mapped and rigid like the land masses we inhabit, and not uniform in structure like the human forms we all occupy. Exploration of celestial bodies is an apparent possible theme, yet those are still so far out of reach as to remain a visible but untouchable ideal. Tangents do boldly go places few or none have quite gone before, but they do handily get there. Bodies of water, then, surely. If their music were to be rendered in physical form, it could only be in liquid.

This is not to say that New Bodies is formless or anarchic. Rivers may spill over but stay on their path, bend and bend back again but constantly push toward their ultimate destination. Tangents don't trade in the chaos of change purely for its own sake, and for all of the pivots and headstands that they do, their music is not ADD at the moment but surprisingly patient over the long term. Some strains of electronic music enable and encourage the hyperactivity of glitchy cut-and-paste composition, but Tangents are five individuals who have to take every turn together and hold one another accountable for all of the creative micro-decisions that they make, of which there are dozens each in bold, multifaceted pieces like "Lake George" and "Terracotta".

The fluidity of Tangents extends to the kind of (pop) cultural settings they can hang in, though it is all in varying strata of the upper-middle to highbrow. They can hang out on either side of post-rock, illustrated by their having played shows in recent times with both Tortoise (original rock-instrumentation-for-non-rock-purposes post-rock) and MONO (latter quiet/loud-epic-rock-music post-rock). They can play shows in respected art galleries, and attract minds like that of Jim O'Rourke, who recently remixed "Terracotta", drawing out the original's eight minutes to an earthly yet otherworldly 11.

They don't use a saxophone (at least very often), and they aren't "jazz rock", but they are undoubtedly jazz-adjacent. Unlike in jazz, the members of Tangents don't spend much time trading off solos. When they build from the quiet base toward propulsive improvisation, they do so together. Drummer Evan Dorrian, who seems to have a hidden arm somewhere that allows him to pull off the intricate and animated rhythms that move New Bodies, does regularly lure and center the listener's attention on the beat, but he does so through dexterity rather than mere flash. It is a testament to him and the other Tangents -- Shoeb Ahmad on guitar, Ollie Brown on electronics, Peter Hollo on cello, and Adrian Lim-Klumpes on keys and bars, all of whom come from other experimental music units -- that the desire to stand out among a crew of this pedigree doesn't get the better of any of them to the disadvantage of the whole.

It isn't all that much of a stretch to say that New Bodies is unlike any other record you'll hear this year, or even any other record the band themselves will create again, yet Tangents make catching the equivalent of an entire jar full of fireflies sound like second nature.





Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.


Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.


JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.


All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.


Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.


Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.


Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.


'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.


Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.


Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.