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Live Review: Tangents

12 December 2016 | 3:17 pm | C. P. Khoo

"A provocative view of their chosen art form, and a bold soundtrack to our contemplations."

"We are going to play for about an hour or so...  We have just as much of an idea of how we'll go as you all do."  With this intriguing introduction, Sydney based quintet Tangents take us on an auditory mystery ride. Weaving amorphously between experimental and improvisational jazz, rock, blues, classical and electronic production, the band remain true to their word and their namesake. 

Tangents come with impressive and diverse credentials: comprising of current and former members of Icarus, Fourplay String Quartet, Triosk and Spartak, the group's vision is as ambitious as it is courageous in their unique ensemble. They perform a continuous stream of tracks over the entire hour in silence and pure physical absorption. 

There are flits between mere semblances of the genres, but as soon as it appears to settle comfortably into a groove and tempo, a pull through a rapid current comes to feast on new, unexpected soundscapes. Atmospheric electronica wind-rushes, tinny raps on top hats, and solid plonks of a prepared piano are borne by the grave baritone of a single cello and highlighted by percussion instruments used in the manner of clapsticks reminiscent of traditional Australian Indigenous music. The group particularly relish in testing the effects of marathon-sustained beats, feverishly driving them up to exponential climaxes and abruptly cooling them down to faint impulse blips, often repeatedly within a single track.

Their latest album, Stateless, has barely been officially launched in their home base and yet it has already garnered international acclaim - among them, as one of 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2016 by San Diego based Treble magazine. The audience are gifted with a preview tonight: from the oriental tinted Along The Forest Floor with its swaying, mellifluous grooves to the striking, spine-tinglingly unnerving Jindabyne, and the evolving urgency of Oberon and N-Mission, the tracks testify to the album's arresting impression. It is clear the band aim to challenge themselves and the arbitrary limits of experimentation.

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The band express delight to be partnering, in a manner of speaking, with the institutional British artist David Hockney, whose Current exhibition adorns the main gallery. Replicas of his vivid, lush landscape paintings form the backdrop of the stage and on a projection screen above it in the Great Hall. A greater number of fashionistas are also in attendance, having glided in from the adjacent Viktor&Rolf exhibition to sample the rich musical tapestry. Like both Hockney and V&R Tangents produce a provocative view of their chosen art form, and a bold soundtrack to our contemplations.