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The Dreamy Electronics of the Tangent Project

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The Tangent Project is comprised of Jeff Coulter (on electronics) and Harrison McKay (on guitar). The band hails from the Philadelphia area, a region renowned for its electronically activity. Having been around for thirty years, the Tangent Project has returned after a long hiatus with some delightful ambient material.

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THE TANGENT PROJECT: Live on Star's End 02.24.08 (CD on Tangent Project Music)

This release from 2008 features 65 minutes of long-form electronic music performed live on a radio broadcast.

There's a brief opening piece that mirrors interstellar energy waves and sets the mood for the audience by divorcing them from their planetary vantage.

Atmospheric texturals are periodically employed, but the majority of the electronics exhibit a more lively model with cycles that establish mesmerizing sequences that are then elaborated upon with sparkling keyboards.

While the central theme runs as a constant (subliminally evolving) thread, a variety of auxiliary electronics appear in the form of sidereal effects which serve to flesh out the flowing music.

The guitar provides a gutsy counterpart for the undulating electronics, contributing astral resonance that is sometimes dreamy, other times searing. The distinct difference here (from other electronics/guitar duos) is that the guitar doesn't come and go, but remains a constant factor throughout the tuneage, delivering a tasty dosage of delightful sonic embellishment for the (often busy) electronics. Nimble fingers coax intricate chords from the strings, bending notes until they resound with an unearthly character.

The last track adopts a more sobering manner, with languid background elements supporting an accordion-trying-to-sound-like-a-horn lead that is remarkably engaging. Processed guitar supplies a haunting undercurrent.

Utilizing a fashion of slow accretion, these compositions possess spry energy from the onset, and that level of animation persists, relentlessly compounding into denser music rich with variations. Those variations occur sneakily as the songs evenly progress into elongated structures.

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THE TANGENT PROJECT: Return (CD on Tangent Project Music)

This release from 2008 features 57 minutes of ambient electronic music.

A studio album.

The first track is an extended version of the last track from the band's prior live album. Here, the accordion-trying-to-sound-like-a-horn achieves a dreamier resonance that eventually transforms it into a standing wave (that tends to wander in an appealing way). The guitar adopts a more prominent presence with heavy sustains that stretch off into infinity. Additional guitar chords (still in extreme sustain mode) lend punctuation to this otherwise reasonably passive piece.

The second piece exhibits a somewhat livelier disposition. Electronics generate a swaying harmonic that is seasoned by secondary keyboards. As the electronics establish a mounting passage, the guitar enters the mix, swirling chords into lavish expressions rich with heightened eeriness. This builds to a point whereat the celestial guitar is wailing (in a subdued manner) and exciting dormant synapses in the listener.

The next piece seems to return to ambient territory with soft electronics, but the guitarwork ends up becoming quite active with agile notes sliding in and out of cosmic sustain. The guitar's voice is kept sedate by laying it into the mix so that it sounds as if it's coming from a distance.

In the album's final track, that remote guitar trick is moved closer to the listener and encouraged to engage in delicate pyrotechnic spirals that swim in a pool of glistening electronics. These atmospheric electronics prefer to remain subservient to the guitar's sonic acrobatics. While maintaining a gentle edginess, the guitar achieves a passionate (yet understated) intensity.

For the most part, these compositions explore a milder tangent than the previous release, mixing astral guitar with smooth electronics to create a mood of sedate expansion.

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THE TANGENT PROJECT: Live: The Gatherings 05.17.08 (CD on Tangent Project Music)

This release from 2008 features 40 minutes of engaging electronic music recorded live at a Gatherings Concert.

While this set list is the same as the one featured on the band's Live on Star's End 02.24.08 release, the music is relatively different, as the musicians experiment with more condensed versions of the songs.

The first track ("PortO") features a grittier sound. The keyboard loops are more strident. The astral guitar, while still mired in the mix, growls with more confidence. The agile melody becomes a thing of glittering beauty as the steadfast electronics mesh with the throbbing guitar sustains. A sprightly pace is established, resulting in high enjoyment. A crystalline beat lurks in the flow. And the guitar reaches some delightfully stratospheric fervor.

The next piece ("Soju") applies some heavenly aspirations with synthesized chorales and delicate textures. The guitar's sustain-fixated chords flitter and gyrate with languid ease amid this idyllic temperament, gradually losing their sustain-fixation and sliding into bluesier expressions. A subterranean mood flavors the song as it winds down.

The last track ("20:30") has lost its accordion-trying-to-sound-like-a-horn aspect, replacing it with more reed-like atmospheric electronics, while the guitar goes ultra-soft with soothing sustains that generate a drowsy influence. The result is an ambient composition of fragile and endearing definition.

It is quite intriguing to hear how Coulter and McKay have altered these songs while retaining the pieces' fundamental appeal.

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THE TANGENT PROJECT: Surface (CD on Tangent Project Music)

This release from 2009 features 71 minutes of pleasant electronic music.

Another studio album...with all new songs.

Track one features some very delicate slide guitar tones winding through layers of vaporous electronics. As the piece progresses, the guitar becomes the lead instrument as it begins delivering doses of more conventional space guitar effects that are maintained at a very tender level so as not to disturb the ethereal synthi milieu. There are twittering hints of percussion lurking deep in the mix.

The temperament gets even more ambient for the next track. The electronics are extremely atmospheric with wispy harmonics drifting on a gentle breeze. The guitar expresses some tasty chords that are greatly understated, often to the point where the radical softness hides some of their melodic beauty. Towards the end, sluggish beats emerge to provide a bottom to the rarefied structure.

The third piece is another ambient composition. Here, the guitar achieves more definition with its lilting chords, even reaches some spiraling searing high points which would instill emphatic drama in the listener if the volume weren't kept so muted. Meanwhile the hushed electronics provide a pleasant foundation with daintily tuned tonalities.

The last track, the title piece, is the longest on the album, clocking in at nearly 22 minutes. It too is a mild piece with passive electronic textures punctuated by drifting genial guitar embellishment. The guitar harmonics frequently wanders into melodic territory as McKay indulges in a little riffing, tweaking the shimmering threads into a delightfully subtle tapestry that undulates across the atmospheric firmament.

A very dreamy outing for the Tangent Project.

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THE TANGENT PROJECT: Live on Star's End 12.06.09 (CD on Tangent Project Music)

This release from 2008 features 58 minutes of enticing electronic music performed live on the radio.

Crisp electronics and space guitar conspire to produce tuneage that tends to be a tad more lively than the band's usual material.

While demonstrably ethereal, these electronics generate a cosmic milieu that is often seasoned with a leisurely vitality. Keyboards provide brisk animation layered atop languid texturals. Cycles are established and create a heavenly disposition, not unlike the vista one might view from a nocturnal hilltop. Meanwhile, auxiliary threads are added which attribute a bubbling vigor that somehow manages to sustain a dreaminess in its character.

As always, the guitar is used in a very smooth fashion to generate clouds of vapor that swirl and pulsate in tandem with the electronic pastiche. Chords are elongated into sustained structures of glistening and foggy definition.

But there are frequent instances in which the guitar breaks out of that ambient model and strives to achieve a certain majesty with nimble-fingered riffs. Even in this powered-up mode, though, the notes are restrained and maintain a gentle softness--mainly through subdued volume.

The third track features an interesting opening replete with novel effects. Some growling guitarwork is found in this song, bestowing a gritty bearing to the otherwise celestial melodics. The gradual manifestation of developments throughout the piece preserves a level of enchanting expectancy.

These compositions are an engaging blend of ambience and contemporary electronic music, supplying bewitching passages to satisfy fans of both genres.

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