Album Review: Tiles – Pretending 2 Run

Tiles - Pretending 2 Run

One of the most gratifying aspects of exploring music is to be able to see how different bands, styles, and scenes interact with each other. Like a massive, breathing network, no band is an island, and every city is its own musical melting pot. Today, my gaze shifts to the city of Detroit, home of Pistons but also home of a progressive rock band Tiles, who have been active since 1992 and in the period of almost 25 years produced six studio and three live albums. Their most recent studio full-length is titled Pretending 2 Run, and it was released earlier this year. The album comes out after almost eight years and the release of 2008’s Fly Paper.

It feels and it’s obvious that Tiles took time to produce an album that is well planned, well thought and well executed. Pretending 2 Run is an epic journey that is comprised of two CD’s, totalling 21 songs and almost 100 minutes of engaging music. It is also worth mentioning that the quartet comprised of Mark Evans (drums, percussions), Chris Herin (guitars, keyboards, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, vocals), Paul Rarick (vocals) and Jeff Whittle (bass, keyboards, vocals) collaborated with a team of musicians for this record. Some of the names that appear on Pretending 2 Run include guitarist Kim Mitchell, drummers Mike and Max Portnoy, keyboardist Adam Holzman, bassist Colin Edwin, flutist Ian Anderson, guitarist Mike Stern, to name but a few. In a recent interview for Prog Sphere, Chris Herin commented about the collaboration with these musicians, “Everyone had total freedom to do as they pleased. When we were in the same room there was collaboration of course — and the long-distance contributors sometimes sent a variety of material from which we could pick and choose.

Tiles band

The Laser’s Edge debut, Pretending 2 Run, is not really a love note to ‘70s prog rock, but the band pays tribute to some of the classic influences here, most notably Rush and Marillion. The precise basswork and bright power-riffs demand the comparison be made.

Hearing the band place an emphasis on this kind of tried-and-tested longform composition is impressive. Tiles’ natural talents with writing, matched with the encyclopaedic interest in the genre and cast of brilliant musicians (some of them legends in their own right) make the least involving moments on Pretending 2 Run a joy to behold.

Musically, comparisons to neo-prog icons like Marillion wouldn’t be undue. Although I’ve had limited luck with the UK band, a lot of that reservation lies in the fact that few know how to merge technical writing with melodic hooks and “pop” craft. Tiles strike me as one of the bands that give proper heed to both sides of the equation. While they never fully swing into prog territory, keeping their sights mixed on relatively conventional songwriting, the music is significantly flashier than the sort you’d usually expect in a purely melodic act. Tiles boost their hooks with exotic instrumentation and plenty of dynamic changes. Even if Pretending 2 Run aims to hit a lot of the same marks as conventional melodic rock, I seldom feel like I have their approach “figured out.” They take a conventional palette and harness it in a way that sounds unpredictable.

Tiles offer some great songwriting—by the end of the first listen, I was impressed to realize several of the tracks already stood out in my memory. The opening, title track features great riffs. “Stonewall” boasts one of the album’s strongest choruses, and “Taken By Surprise,” one of the most crucial numbers on the album features such an amazing instrumentation that will definitely have the old school proggers give the band thumbs up; the band’s performance is impressive across the board. The music is intelligently arranged, giving some extra meat to the bones of the already-good songwriting. Some symphonic string sections give an air of class to the music, as well as some beautifully effective keyboard work.

Pretending 2 Run is a record that challenges and provokes. If anything, it’s that quality that makes the album among the best this band has ever done, and definitely one of the best efforts to be released in 2016.

Tracklist:

CD 1 (45:58)
1. Pretending To Run (7:10)
2. Shelter In Place (3:53)
3. Stonewall (6:50)
4. Voir Dire (4:37)
5. Drops Of Rain (5:02)
6. Taken By Surprise (11:22)
7. Refugium (2:55)
8. Small Fire Burning (4:09)

CD 2 (50:31)
1. Midwinter (4:32)
2. Weightless (9:16)
3. Friend Or Foe (6:16)
4. Battle Weary (4:33)
5. Meditatio (1:37)
6. Other Arrangements (2:17)
7. The Disappearing Floor (5:43)
8. Fait Accompli (4:32)
9. Pretending To Run [Reprise 1] (1:40)
10. Uneasy Truce (4:19)
11. Pretending To Run [Reprise 2] (1:15)
12. The View From Here (1:28)
13. Backsliding (3:03)

Line-up:

* Mark Evans – drums, percussion
* Chris Herin – guitars, keyboards, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, vocals
* Paul Rarick – vocals
* Jeff Whittle – bass, keyboards, vocals

with:

* Kim Mitchell / guitar (A2)
* Mike Portnoy / drums (A3, B8)
* Max Portnoy / drums (B8)
* Adam Holzman / keyboards (A6, B6, B12)
* Mike Stern / guitar (A6, B7)
* Colin Edwin / bass (A8)
* Joe Denizon / violin, vocals (B10)
* Ian Anderson / flute (B2)
* Matthew Parmenter / vocals
* Matt Cross / keyboards, rhythm programming
* Mark Mikel / keyboards, backing vocals
* France Espitalier / spoken word
* Tim Michling / oboe
* Terry Brown / rhythm programming
* Jim Anderson / cello
* Cecilia Johnson / violin
* Dana Mader / violin
* Tom Sieberg / violin
* Florin Simioanca / viola
* Kevin Chown / bass
* Keith Kaminski / soprano saxophone
* Kevin Sharpe / hammond B-3

Links:

Official website

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