A “timeslip” is an anomaly in time, a distortion in the temporal plane where someone or something may suddenly travel through time via unknown or unexpected means. It’s often used as a plot device in storytelling—Scrooge confronted by the ghosts of past, present and future or the clock striking 13 in Tom’s Midnight Garden—though there are of course countless claiming to bear witness to timeslips in our own reality. A chimera is an organism made of cells from two or more individuals. They are very real, with many examples of animal chimeras formed through the merging of multiple fertilized eggs. But again they are most often seen in storytelling, most famously in Greek myth as a monstrous creature formed from the disparate parts of various animals. These terms are concepts that share an essential deconstruction of the dimensions we rely on to structure the world in ways we can understand. Playing with expectation in curious and eerie ways and formulating a new object, a new experience from a subtle warping of familiarity.
In this sense, Timeslips & Chimeras works as both title and thematic material for Tangents’ new record. Leaning toward the jazz-inspired improvisational music the Australian band are known for—disparate parts that melt into unexpected harmony—this is an exploration in bending our expectations of music, both in its structure and time, while simultaneously distorting these dimensions as a listening experience. Harnessing their blend of free-styling improvisation and meticulous post-production, these are compositions that shudder and billow through the infinite twisting ideas of the band members as they evolve in real time, tangents if you will. A double album for all intents and purposes, it’s really just the latter half here that constitutes new material. While almost all the music was recorded in a single day in 2018 at Sydney’s Free Energy Device Studios, the first half was released digitally last year as Timeslips, and now finds new life remastered and reissued in tandem with companion Chimeras.
It’s impossible not to compare the work of Tangents to a certain other iconic Australian improvisational outfit. Indeed there are clear similarities, homages even, to The Necks in the way they draw on jazz and avant-garde influences to carefully construct complex pieces bristling with the intensity of live improvisational performance. Tracks like “Exaptation” and “Old Organs” simmer with that same captivating pressure build so archetypical of The Necks, and it’s a mood that permeates the record throughout. The organic instrumentation is seamless in its ensemble, they are recording this as a live improvisation and, to put it bluntly, they are tight as fuck. But Tangents make the work their own through the capacity to draw on broader influences through post-produced manipulation, from post-rock type structures (they are signed to Temporary Residence after all) to ambient and electronica. This offers a diverse range of sonic textures, “Lilliputian” descends into electronica, almost feeling like a techno track towards its end while the orchestral ambient drones and processed trumpets of “Timeslip” and “Vessel” offset the melodic jazz keys of a song like “Lost Track.” “Ossicles” almost takes on industrial noise qualities with its increasingly abrasive drones.
It’s a unique use of sounds, if nothing spectacular in isolation, only truly elevated by the manner in which it’s constructed around the percussive spine. For while the band and the record are entirely a celebration of music alliance and cooperation, particular glory need be reserved for the rhythm section, specifically drummer Evan Dorrian. Almost playing the part of frontman, Dorrian and his drums feel like an entity all to themselves; some celestial presence brought to being for the other members to orbit. There is a constant sense of momentum, often urgency, as he balances and deconstructs time signatures with rolling drumlines and skittering beats. Snares and hi-hats appear where they seemingly ought not, but always possessing an innate understanding of what truly works and indeed when to pull back and let space envelop the busyness. These patterns and passages Dorrian conjures are always inventive, adventurous and utterly hypnotic to fall into.
They scaffold all else Tangents do, all sinew and bone and furling out all manner of tendons from which the instrumentation can attach and grow. It’s drumming that truly turns already great music transcendent. But perhaps that does a disservice to the work of Tangents—nothing exists in isolation in this music. What can feel disparate always unites to make something uniquely whole, seeming to exist and be experienced outside of any preconceived parameters, but always accessible and beautiful. This is what makes Timeslips & Chimeras a triumph of ensembleship. It’s meticulous and intentional, carefully manipulated in its production. But can only be that way from organic construction crystallized in one point in space and time, never to be repeated, through the togetherness of its five members. As though slipping through time or forming a new organism, reimagining what dimensions can be.
Label: Temporary Residence
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Will has been contributing to Treble since 2018. Music and writing are the foils to his day job. Apart from Treble, he has contributed to Drowned in Sound, Glide Magazine and Indieshuffle. He also plays music and blogs when time permits.