Tangents: Stateless

Scott Wallace
14th Jul 2016

The first track on Stateless, the third album from Sydney instrumental group Tangents, is called "Jindabyne," which may not be that significant, but given the contents of the piece it's a striking and suggestive name. Jindabyne is an interesting place. It's more-or-less a ghost town for a majority of the year, and the former location of the town lies nearby at the bottom of Lake Jindabyne where it was abandoned to make way for the Snowy Hydro. "Jindabyne," if you allow it to, could take you there.

The music on Stateless is exploratory in the purest sense of the word, evoking landscapes and shapes and even a sense of light, the colour of the sky. The prickly pine needle rhythm and watery melody of "Jindabyne" gives way to the lengthy, vibrant and restless "Oberon," on which Evan Dorrian's splashing drums swagger through potholes and puddles created by Peter Hollo's percolating cello part. 

The five-piece band synthesise contemporary classical forms - most often recalling Steve Reich or Philip Glass - and marry them to the looseness and improvisational nature of jazz and the dynamics of head-nodding electronic music. Stateless is at once both carefully composed and freely flowing. The compositions included here are more about rhythm, texture and contrast than definable melodies and harmonic structures.

Tangents upend the traditional band arrangement, allowing for such intriguing additions as the rumbling guitar that takes on the role of percussion on the jagged "Masist Cau," or the sturdy bass that takes the lead on the appropriately creeping "Along the Forest Floor," leaving shards of chimes and half-head voices in its wake, a spectral melody rising off it like steam. 

Following the relatively short diversion into glitchy jazz, "Directrix," the album switches gears somewhat, into more dynamic and forceful compositions. Where the first half of the record feels observational and passive, the second is characterised by driving rhythms and hypnotic repetition, recalling classic Krautrock groups of the '7os like Neu! and Can. Despite the added momentum, though, the band still conjure a wonderfully airy and spacious sound that joins the two halves together.

Stateless feels like a full and generous album cycle. It's pensive and evocative without being overly conceptual, and it shows a courageous sense of movement and exploration. It concludes with three extra tracks that are enjoyable, including a killer electro-acoustic house-influenced remix of "Jindabyne" by Four Tet, but exist discreetly from the main album. As the serene, glimmering "Maze Cresent, Pt. II," fades away like the last strings of sunlight, there is a feeling of having been somewhere and witnessed something, even if you haven't moved an inch while listening to this remarkable, transportive music. 

Stateless is out now on CD, vinyl and digital formats.