BAND AND RECORD OF THE MONTH
Formed around the years 90, the Detroit-based prog-rock quartet Tiles is back with another amazing and innovative album. Over their 20 year career, Tiles has gathered great success, where they’ve released a catalog of studio works and live that have garnered excellent praise around the world. The Tiles core consists of four real veterans of North American progressive rock, a band composed by conventional musical instruments like Guitar, Keyboard, Bass, Drums, also including Vocals, however, with a musical magnificent potential, the four musicians exude exemplary talent and lot of creativity in the compositions and arrangements. The band shows many influences from the 70's hard rock circuit, however their first two albums are fully into the progressive rock style, especially on their first one, I can say that the Tiles are a group that combines two established styles of music, progressive rock with the traditional American Hard Rock, in a perfect harmony. Listening all the albums, Tiles show a musical diversity, which each album follows a different concept, and thus, each album behind an unique identity, creating multiple atmospheres. Listening all the albums, Tiles show a musical diversity, which each album follows a different concept, and thus, each album behind a unique identity, creating multiple atmospheres.
While a formation as a quartet, Tiles have some similar characteristics with one of the worldwide prog rock icons, as a small and subtle influence on the line of the canadian band Rush. Nevertheless, without missing the real identity of the band. After some years in silence, exactly eight years, when "Fly Paper" the last album was released, Tiles returns to the prog rock scenary with a new album, and a further double album. Pretending 2 Run is more an amazing and very important addition in the group discography. Along these eight years, the musicians on the band produced enough material to release a double album and totally conceptual, one more masterpiece from this fantastic North American band. One of hallmark of this album, is the perfect formula, with a large number of instrumental tracks compared to other albums, however, vocals are well used in certain tracks, without exaggeration and in the right measure, this also due to collaborators musicians, as an example "Ian Anderson", "Mike Portnoy", "Terry Brown" and others who with great talent contributed to this wonderful album. It's apparent that this guys, on the band, are not afraid to experiment new musical ways, and in this case, you can believe, the formula works fully in all compositions. If you’ve never listened any Tiles album before, Pretending 2 Run offers you an excelent opportunity to know their works. Brilliant and fantastic, an amazing album and band, highly recommendable...
line-up on Tiles album are:
A Brief History...
Launched with words of encouragement from Gene Simmons of KISS "I was totally blown away, amazing...," the band self-released their debut album Tiles in 1994. Acclaim quickly spread and led to international licensing agreements in 1995. Polydor released Tiles throughout Europe on their Dream Circle label where it earned excellent reviews from Aardschok (91/100), SCREAM (6/6) and Rock Hard (Germany) (8/10) among others. Teichiku Records released the album in Japan with BURRN! Magazine rating Tiles an 88/100 saying "... (Tiles is) a wonderful album with a very high level of technique and a great melodic sense."
The CD entered the BURRN! chart at #47.
Tiles returned in 1997 with Fence the Clear – an album which found the band embracing their progressive rock heritage and experimenting with long-form song structures, bits of jazz and a heavier sound. It also marked the beginning of a long partnership with noted Rushproducer Terry Brown, who mixed the album. Fence the Clear was again well-received by the band’s growing fan base and garnered positive reviews from Aardschok (94/100), SCREAM (5/6) and earned HM Magazine's "Pick of the Litter" award. While at home..., the Detroit Free Press named Tiles "Detroit's leading progressive rock band."
Tiles rose from the underground with 1999’s Presents of Mind – once again mixed by Terry Brown and featuring artwork by award-winning artist Hugh Syme. Lauded by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull "Tiles are undoubtedly one of the brighter hopes for the musical millennium!" and Prog ambassador Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater "I love this CD. The whole disc is full of great musicianship and great songwriting with catchy hooks" – Tiles was invited by Portnoy to tour Europe with Dream Theater in November 1999. Presents of Mind was nominated for several Detroit Music Awards and occupied a spot on many "best of 1999" lists from fans and journalists alike.
After a lengthy gestation period, the fourth Tiles album, Window Dressing, materialized in 2004. This time Terry Brown helmed the entire project – producing, engineering and mixing. A concept album that investigates situations where "things aren’t always as they appear’, Window Dressing received high marks worldwide for its experimental blend of Prog elements with dark garage rock aesthetics and was nominated for a 2005 Detroit Music Award. With elaborate and intriguing artwork by Hugh Syme, the album was issued with a bonus live bootleg disc from the band's 1999 European tour with Dream Theater.
Released in 2008, Fly Paper is the fifth studio recording from Tiles. Terry Brown’s spacious production draws the listener deep into the music – which finds the band embracing a renewed sense of experimentation as the intricacies of progressive rock co-exist with improvisational freedom. Artist Hugh Syme portrays the album’s theme of vulnerability with a lone paper airplane drifting at the mercy of air currents swirling over a congested city skyline. Fly Paper features an impressive roster of special guests including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Alex Lifeson of Rush, Alannah Myles, Kim Mitchell and Hugh Syme. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull hailed Fly Paper as "Tiles’ best CD yet!"
Tiles commemorated their 20th anniversary with a pair of live recordings that double as career retrospectives. The first installment, Off the Floor 01 was released in 2012 with the 2-disc Off the Floor 02 following in 2014. Tiles delivers spirited "live in the studio" performances which offer new perspectives on standout tracks from each of the band’s five albums. Complete with several new instrumentals and adventurous extended jams, the "Off the Floor" project gives the listener more than carbon copies of the studio versions with Terry Brown handling the mixing chores and Hugh Syme providing the cover art. Nominated for a 2015 Detroit Music Award, Off the Floor 02 includes a bonus disc of selected songs from the band's 2005 appearance at the Rites of Spring Festival and two videos from the "Off the Floor" sessions.
Hailing from the fertile Detroit music scene, Tiles features Chris Herin (guitar, keyboards), Jeff Whittle (bass), Paul Rarick (vocals) and Mark Evans (drums). Formed in 1992 on the heels of a production deal with Gene Simmons of KISS, Tiles has developed a structured-yet-spontaneous compositional style that blends the adventure of progressive rock with an aggressive hard rock edge. The band has released five studio albums worldwide and recently commemorated their 20th anniversary (with the original line-up intact) by issuing a pair of live recordings, Off the Floor 01 & Off the Floor 02.
Eight years after their last studio album, Tiles returns with the mesmerizing magnum opus Pretending 2 Run. Clocking in at over 96-minutes and spanning two discs, Pretending 2 Run is an ambitious and richly crafted song cycle that spins the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal. Brooding and expressive, Tiles explores the dark subject matter by blending stylistically diverse musical elements. Lyrical string arrangements, haunting choir performances, ambient textures and lush vocals co-exist with thundering drums, weaving bass lines and an army of guitars to create a vivid experience that delivers the story’s raw emotional journey from isolation to redemption.
2 Run (aka "P2R") features a world class production
team who deliver an impressive blend of sound and vision. Continuing their
partnership with renowned producer Terry Brown – and with mastering
by Grammy award-winning engineer Peter Moore, Pretending 2 Run
Pretending 2 Run is a somber pilgrimage through adversity – an escape from the dark corners of seclusion on a faltering and elusive search for redemption. Unlike a literal, linear narrative the story does not reveal how or why things happened, but instead observes events in the wake of personal upheaval. Each song sets a scene in the storyline allowing abstract symbolism and vague notions to creep into many of the lyrics. This layer of ambiguity creates the opportunity for songs to be considered individually; and more importantly, leaves room for the listener to personalize the story with their observations, experience or imagination.
The album's story begins in the post-traumatic aftermath of tragedy as the central character retreats into self-imposed isolation, numb and disconnected from the world. Time is displaced as his mind alternately travels between the past and the half-speed haze of the present in search of explanations. His recovery is hindered by the fear, anger and confusion that now define his life. Standing at several crossroads, indecision becomes another obstacle as internal battles rage between conflicting "fight-or-flight" emotions.
The opening strains of the title track with its strident feedback, regimental snare drum cadence and solemn 15th century meditation on Psalm 51 foreshadow a dark and dramatic musical story. But these are also signposts that herald a reimagined Tiles – a band intent on creating a cinematic experience where the music unfolds and evolves in unpredictable ways. Guitarist and composer Chris Herin reveals: "We needed to do "something more" if we were going to record another album. We had to think big – to explore and experiment and hope something worthwhile would materialize – and clearly it took a while!" What Tiles delivers with P2R is an elaborate concept album that follows in the best ambitions of classic progressive rock. The song cycle format allowed the band the freedom to veer into art rock territory as recurring musical themes, reprises, spoken word narrative, field recordings and electronic textures are woven throughout the arrangements, reinforcing and supplementing the storyline. Bassist Jeff Whittle adds: "We rehearsed and recorded the basic tracks as a band for almost every song. So although the album features elaborate vocal and string arrangements and layered instrumentation – the foundation of the songs is classic 3-piece: bass, guitar and drums." And make no mistake..., at the core of P2R is the adventurous guitar-driven progressive hard rock for which Tiles is known. The "studied spontaneity" of drummer Mark Evans and the inventive melodic counterpoint of bassist Jeff Whittle combine to deliver intense and complex workouts, deep grooves and spacious foundations. Guitarist Chris Herin uses an arsenal of electric guitars and effects to create a wide range of distortion, clean tones and textures. And in a first for the band, several songs were written in alternate tunings; while banjo, mandolin, parlor, nylon and 12-string guitars – along with creative ambient recording techniques – color and contrast the arrangements. Riding atop the musical activity is vocalist Paul Rarick's crisp clear tenor as he navigates the emotional spectrum from delicate laments to soaring upper register melodies.
Lending their talents to the impressive production of Pretending 2 Run is an extraordinary collection of special guests: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Winery Dogs), Adam Holzman (Steven Wilson Band), Mike Stern (Miles Davis), Kim Mitchell (Max Webster), Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Chown (Tarja Turunen, Chad Smith), Max Portnoy (Next to None), Matthew Parmenter (Discipline), Mark Mikel (Pillbugs), Joe Deninzon, and other notable musicians from the Detroit area.
Herin explains: "Throughout our history we've typically stayed within the instrumentation of the band; but we began P2R with no such restriction. To present the album’s theme and music to their full potential we collaborated with a host of additional musicians. Lucky for us, not only do we have many talented friends, but we also had opportunities to work with some notable and iconic special guests!" In fact, the album’s diversity of sound is due in great part to the guest musicians who contributed their distinctive skills. Topping the list is Jethro Tull front man Ian Anderson who weaves flute melodies between vocal phrases on the moody Midwinter before he cuts loose with an energetic improvisation on the song’s long ride out.
Especially noteworthy is that Tiles has the distinction of featuring the Portnoy father/son recording debut! Prog ambassador and perennial award-winning drummer Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs, Dream Theater) and his son Max of Next to None are making their first appearance together on the same recording. Mike energizes the alternately heavy and orchestral Stonewall, offering up complex syncopations and contrasting subtle ostinato patterns. Max steps out of his progressive metal comfort zone to groove on the Badfinger-esque Fait Accompli – which includes both Portnoys teaming up for a father/son duet on the song’s instrumental bridge sections. Herin recalls the sessions at Portnoy’s studio: "It was genuinely heart-warming to watch the father/son bond at work; not only Mike producing Max’ performance, but especially as they worked out their duet parts."
The super-sized cast of luminaries continues with six-time Grammy nominated fusion/jazz guitarist Mike Stern threading a blues-on-steroids solo through the lengthy and off-kilter ride out of The Disappearing Floor. Canadian icon Kim Mitchell (Max Webster) returns for his third guest appearance delivering a blistering guitar solo on the album’s first single and video Shelter in Place. Adam Holzman, an alumnus of Miles Davis' band and currently the keyboardist in the Steven Wilson Band cuts loose on B-3 and Fender Rhodes in the 11-minute Taken by Surprise. Holzman also provided essential ambient and electronic soundscapes to symbolize the emotional ebb and flow between many of the songs. Master sound designer Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree contributes his palette of "subtle interventions". Consisting of sliced effects, distorted loops, e-bowed bass, clay pots and found sounds, Edwin's imaginative programming was perfect for the dynamic lament of Small Fire Burning and the slow building crescendo of Friend or Foe.
However, many of the most critical guest performances came from Tiles' own backyard.
The contributions of Matthew Parmenter of Discipline on lead vocals, duets, backing vocals and vocal arrangements heighten the album's tension and drama. Parmenter's theatrical timbre is the perfect foil to Rarick's clean delivery as both vocalists navigate the contrasting states-of-mind and faltering emotional progress of the central character.
Essential to creating the unpredictable and colorful sonic picture is the involvement of Mark Mikel, mastermind of The Pillbugs. Toledo's favorite son, Mikel orchestrated arrangements for the string quartet and oboe, contributed backing vocals, co-wrote vocal arrangements, recorded overdubs and made his eclectic collection of instruments available. Otherwise sitar, tambura, mellotron, electric harpsichord, analog synthesizers and other unique gadgets may not have found their way into the album.
Rounding out the guest list are crucial performances by long-time Tiles associate Kevin Chown (bass), Joe Deninzon (violin), Keith Kaminski (saxophone), Tim Michling (oboe), Ryan Arini (vocals), Sonya Mastick (percussion), Matt Cross (programming), Kristina Freed (vocals), Kevin Sharpe (B-3) and Renaissance Voices & Con Spirito (choir). Predicts Herin: "Most of P2R, including the subjective story itself, will likely take time to absorb and blossom. Many of the song structures are non-repetitive and the arrangements are dense and multi-layered..., there is a lot to take in! It will require repeated listens for the album to gradually reveal itself as the listener develops an emotional connection. But these are often the kinds of albums that make lasting impressions – at least we can hope!" In the final assessment Pretending 2 Run is a varied and esoteric musical pilgrimage – a song cycle whose story has only a vague beginning and at best a tenuous conclusion. This is an ironic parallel to the situation Tiles was in nearly eight years ago as the band stood at the crossroads – unsure if there would be another album after Fly Paper. Thankfully, this crisis of confidence gradually passed as uncertainty gave way to enthusiasm. The band forged ahead to explore new creative paths in hopes an album – distinctive in concept, expression and sound – would materialize.
And so..., finally the wait is over! 2016 delivers 96-minutes of much anticipated new Tiles music! Destined to be on the radar of Prog fans everywhere, Pretending 2 Run is clearly and unmistakably Tiles, but infused with a more expansive sound as the guest artists and the band’s renewed spirit of adventure propel the music into new directions sure to please fans old and new.
"Pretending 2 Run"
After an eight year absence, TILES returns with a vengeance by delivering the mesmerizing 2-CD magnum opus Pretending 2 Run. Clocking in at over 96-minutes, Pretending 2 Run is an ambitious and richly crafted song cycle spinning the tale of a man blindsided and disillusioned by betrayal.
and mixed by Terry Brown
recording at: Dead Moth Studio, Maumee, OH
Lab Recorders, Sterling Heights, MI
Ian Anderson Session, Linwell House, St. Cleve, UK. Engineered by Gerald Bostock
Stern Session, United Sound Systems, Detroit, MI
& Max Portnoy Sessions, MP4 Studio, Philadelphia, PA
Session, Christ Episcopal Church, Dearborn, MI
Espitalier Session, Pseudo Studio Southeast
Chown Sessions, Chown Cali Compound, CA
by Terry Brown
Standing Pavement Entertainment at info @ tiles-music.com or
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