Tiles: Pretending 2 Run (The Laser's Edge)
If you've never heard of Detroit natives Tiles before then get your head around these figures, Pretending 2 Run is their first studio album in 8 years, their sixth overall, it clocks in at massive 92 minutes over two discs, it was produced by long-time Rush producer Terry Brown and has the artwork designed by Hugh Syme who has also worked with the legendary Canadian band. Now if all of this doesn't scream prog then I'm afraid you are reading the wrong blog, Tiles are most definitely a prog band and one that I first was aware of on their last album Fly Paper (which had Alex Lifeson playing on it) since then I have worked retrospectively through their discography and I have gained a higher appreciation for their talent as a band. So it was with a lot of excitement that found out that they were finally releasing their follow up to Fly Paper. Tiles have always struck me as a mixture of Rush and Dream Theater, so they are following the age old tradition of prog double albums, due to the records length and varying styles there is always room for guests and Pretending 2 Run is no different with Jethro Tull mainman Ian Anderson, ex-Dream Theater/Winery Dog/Flying Colours man Mike Portnoy and his son Max, jazz guitarist Mike Stern, vocals from long term contributor Matthew Parmenter, bass from former Tiles and Artension man Kevin Chown, extra synths and programming from Steven Wilson alumni Colin Edwin and Adam Holzman as well as a string section and a choir to really add to the bombastic nature of this record.
Still with all the additional help on this record to give it the huge sound it needs to really create a soundscape, it's the four members of the band that work the hardest with Jeff Whittle and Chris Herin the major factors to the sound Whittle providing the intricate, jazz infected bass work, Herin the soaring guitar melodies, deft acoustics and towering solos with both of them sharing the keys (Herin also gives us a blast of trumpet too). Accompanying the two guitars is the impressive percussive talent of Mike Evans who is every song's anchor playing in such a way that when Portnoy takes over on Stonewall and Fait Accompli unless you know that it is him playing you wouldn't be aware, Evans is great drummer in his own right channeling Jazz and rock into his playing as well as the obvious nods to Peart. Finally once again Tiles' vocalist Paul Rarick gets to impress with his vocal power and his wide range that has elements of James La Brie but with a broader scope to it.
The first disc doesn't ease you in, immediately you are confronted by complex instrumental pieces, rapid stylistic changes, dense levels of instrumentation, with the slow burning title track building up into the more Eastern influenced Shelter In Place and the classic rock of Stonewall. There are French inserts throughout linking things together meaning you really have to listen to the album to appreciate it, Drops Of Rain has a Beatles/Cheap Trick sound with a lot of cymbals, walking bassline and poppy guitars, this is juxtaposed with the previous instrumental the rougher Voir Dire and leads into the impressive 10 minute plus Taken By Surprise which is followed Refugium which can only be described as Chamber Music, then the first disc ends with Small Fire Burning and the listener has already run a gamut of sounds before even getting to the more free flowing second album.
With the first being more like a classic Tiles record, the second has more tracks at shorter lengths, meaning there is more of collective sound as one song segues into the next, with intermezzos and transitions the order of the day. It starts with the Afro-beat Midwinter which builds traditional wind instruments on top of dark electro, much like the pre and post So Peter Gabriel sound, second song Weightless is the longest song on the second disc and brings the King Crimson-like prog vibe with the liberal use of sax abound and a huge chorus, while Battle Weary is a more laid back folky affair, Meditatio is another chamber song that moves into a bubbling synth track that explodes into the ELP-style The Disappearing Floor. Pretending 2 Run is a progressive masterpiece, it may be overwhelming for some but after a few listens the 90 plus minute album drip feeds you it's secrets meaning that every time you listen you hear something new and interesting, with so many great prog albums this year already, Pretending 2 Run could possibly be the best. 10/10