Topographic Tracks

Throughout sessions for the Tangent's latest album, singer-keyboardist Andy Tillison kept the Yes classic Tales from Topographic Oceans (Atlantic, 1973)
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The Tangent

Throughout sessions for the Tangent's latest album, singer-keyboardist Andy Tillison kept the Yes classic Tales from Topographic Oceans (Atlantic, 1973) right by his mixer. “I didn't want to copy it, but I frequently put it on for inspiration,” says Tillison. “I wanted to make a record with the same kind of depth. So while A Place in the Queue still sounds like a Tangent piece — with Moogs, jazz piano, sax, and rock grooves — we tried to think outside the box, just like Yes did in 1973.”

The Tangent is part of the renaissance of progressive rock, alongside favorites such as the Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, and Marillion. A Place in the Queue (Inside Out Music, 2006), the band's third CD, was recorded in several home-studio locations, including the south of France, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. Though the finished work is seamless, the group had some studio challenges caused by the fact that its members were living in different countries during recording. Tillison says, “There were a lot of logistics to overcome, like getting musicians from one place to another or sending CDs and hard disks around in the mail. With our first album, the band members had literally never met each other face-to-face!

“But the Internet really brings this band together. For example, bassist Jonas Reingold will cut a part in Sweden [he uses Apple Logic Pro software], and 15 minutes later I've inserted his take into the mix and am listening to it here in France. Or Guy Manning [acoustic guitar, vocals] and I might use a VNC [a remote-desktop-control system] so we can work on a mix together and simultaneously alter onscreen parameters with our mice — and he's in England. As progressive musicians, we are seizing upon this technology, just as our forefathers seized upon the synthesizer and Mellotron.”

A Place in the Queue

Both Tillison and Manning use Steinberg Cubase SX, which they run on PCs. Tillison says, “We tracked all the keyboards and most of the acoustic guitars, vocals, and Theo Travis's sax and flute through a Studiomaster 16:4:2 mixer and an M-Audio Delta 44 interface. I've been using Steinberg software for 20 years, and Cubase still offers the best solution for keyboard players. For us, the MIDI part is so important, and I've always found Steinberg's implementation of that to be superb.”

Tillison shares keyboard duties with pianist Sam Baine, and the two use the best of vintage hardware and digital software in their rigs. “A '72 Minimoog is my pride and joy — you can hear it especially on the title track and ‘In Earnest,’” Tillison says. “I also have a newer Minimoog Voyager which, unlike its predecessor, actually stays in tune. All the organ sounds on Queue are created using the Native Instruments B4 plug-in, controlled by the drawbars and keys of my old Roland VK7 organ. Most acoustic piano parts are from Steinberg's The Grand plug-in.”

Tillison didn't use dedicated studio monitors when mixing. “I mix on Wharfedale hi-fi speakers — I don't own any professional monitors at all,” he says. “Most people listen on regular stereo speakers, so that's what I mix on. I also use techniques such as old-fashioned stereo panning, instead of any elaborate stereo-doubling effects. That helped us make, in my opinion, prog rock that sounds punchy and direct. But in the end, it's more about the tracks you lay down, rather than how you mix them.”


The Tangent
Home base: Aveyron (France), Leeds (United Kingdom), Malmo (Sweden)

Sequencers of choice: Apple Logic Pro, Steinberg Cubase SX

Favorite mic: Studio Electronics SE1