Tangents @ Rosemount Hotel
w/ Grievous Bodily Calm, DJ Ben Taffe B2B with Sarah Delfante
Sunday, July 22, 2018
I’m going to level with you. I’ve been known to find improvisational music a bit stressful. It pings my mild anxiety. What will happen next? Is this about to fall in a heap? Oh God, how can I make sense of this? And so on. But when Sydney based Tangents hit The Rosemount on Sunday to launch their album, New Bodies, we were safe as houses.
On arrival, I was surprised to see The Rosemount decked out like a jazz club. Mates and I plonked ourselves at a table with a red tablecloth and a wee candle, front and centre, and agreed that the combination of seating and early set times was a welcome touch on a Sunday and pretty fitting for this show.
Locals Grievous Bodily Calm opened with their well-loved compositions and even road-tested a couple of newbies, during which their typical abandon was replaced with studious concentration, for obvious reasons. Their sets are like feel-good novellas with twists and turns and arcs and Sunday’s was reliably dreamy and tight. At the mid-point, drummer Alex Reid remarked that playing a little earlier than usual required a bit of an adjustment. I knew what he meant – I too was adjusting to seeing these fun-time favourites in this setting and time slot. They closed with last year’s irresistible Djinn and all was upbeat and well.
I’d had New Bodies glued to my ears for the few weeks since its release and had long since landed on the view that it’s the best Tangents album. The album was improvised in the studio and then switched about with electronic production. The care taken really honours the listener. It is accessible, endearing, and packed with feeling – characteristics often missing on albums this elaborate. We witnessed this integrity first hand during Sunday’s performance.
Tangents are a quintet and perfectly positioned themselves in harmony with The Rosemount’s triangular stage. Drummer Evan Dorrian nestled in its apex, flanked by two bandmates a side. Those on the ends in the ultimate foreground. See? Symmetry, structure and order already. Very pleasing. The New Bodies atmosphere was built within moments of the band getting underway. We heard interpretations of a number of the tracks from the album and a track or two from Tangents’ 2016 album Stateless (including Jindabyne, during which there were some temporary sound problems – Tangents is, no doubt, a challenging task for any sound engineer, and the sound was otherwise notably great). There were also a couple of entirely improvised pieces.
Already familiar with the album, I was excited to get a better sense during the live show of how it all fits together. Dorrian’s drumming was one of the first things we experienced at the beginning of the set, signalling a pretty high standard, only to become more complex as the night progressed. Shoeb Ahmad’s guitar and guitar effects were unassuming, beautifully timed and, at points in the set, magnificent to watch. Think screwdrivers, bells and yelling into strings. I particularly admire the work of cello and effects wizard Peter Hollo, so it was great to hear him in this context. The sounds from Adrian Lim-Klumpes on keys were unique and otherworldly at times. Ollie Brown was at his laptop delivering electronic beats and sounds, at times deliciously trip-hop in nature, a fresh take that I have delighted in on New Bodies.
It’s an unfortunate human impulse to try and work out what you like best about a thing. Whose contribution is standing out the most? Who is the star of this show? At one point I silently played this futile game, to no avail. I’m pretty sure that Tangents don’t want us to either. They are all well-established musicians, most of whom have solo projects on the go, but their egos are clearly left at the door for Tangents. Their shared commitment to the combined effect of their output is clear. And fruitful. The word ‘synergy’ – as battered and misused as it is – genuinely applies here. The whole was unavoidable and far more evident than the sum of the parts.
Photos by Daniel Hildebrand