Tiles - Presents of Mind

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA 9038-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 63:41:00

How aptly titled this album is, as it was included in a Christmas gift to myself (how kind of me). But, more than that, these thoughtful compositions are little gifts in themselves - ones with which you should reward yourself with all due haste.

But, how did I come to that conclusion? You see, it started this way. I had heard quite a bit about Tiles, read the reviews and interviews, and the comparison that keeps getting bandied about is Rush - but at first, I didn't hear much of Rush at all (but for a bit here and there). So, the holiday season was upon me, and since I seem to be an avid collector of Magna Carta releases, and because I had read that press, I put this on that gifts-to-self list ? unsure of what exactly I was going to hear. As you can tell by the opening paragraph, I was presently surprised.

Tiles are an American progressive band who bear some similarity to Dream Theater, if Dream Theater were more progressive rock than progressive metal - say Dream Theater in their lower-key moments. Vocalist Paul Rarick sounds a bit like James LaBrie when LaBrie is both on his game and not reaching for impossible vocal heights. That isn't meant to be a dig at LaBrie, but merely pointing out that Rarick isn't a "soaring" vocalist. But, not so much like LaBrie that he sounds like a clone, mind you - it's actually more the quality of his voice rather than the use.

If you like prog bands such as Spock's Beard or Discipline for example, then you will like Tiles. Echolyn also comes to mind, so I suspect that we can throw in Echolyn offshoots Still and Finneus Gauge into that mix as well. Tristan Park also comes to mind, when Chuck Dyac was singing lead.

Speaking of Discipline, frontman Matthew Parmenter guests on violin on the beautiful "Reasonable Doubt"

Drummer Pat DeLeon adds backing vocals. His and Rarick's voice blend nicely, creating nice, smooth harmonies. Although they both have voices in the same range, they are just enough different to give a nice blending of tones.

Where the Rush comparison comes to the fore is the bass work Jeff Whittle, whose tone is fat and warm not unlike Geddy Lee's. The instrumental "Ballad Of The Sacred Cows" is at times like Rush, at times like Dream Theater and is perhaps the best example of the two influences. DeLeon's percussion is very much like Portnoy's, Whittle's bass Lee-like, and guitarist Chris Herin brings in something different - the Tiles portion of the troika. Well, that is until chaos comes into play - where Herin tears up the fretboard - shreds, really - sometimes sounding like an acidic violin.

The brief instrumental "The Sandtrap Jig" is like a calm oasis in a wind driven desert, so in contrast to the rest of the album, and yet it fits.

There are so many wonderful moments on this disk, it's tough to pick out a few to highlight. "Modifications" is one, "The Learning Curve" (which features a very nice guitar solo just before the end, short but impressive), but it is "Taking Control," the most Rush like track here, that is the song that will sell you on Tiles; the moment when it all clicks into place. Not because it is Rush-like, but because this is the song that proves the bands chops, that proves that, for example, DeLeon is a dynamic drummer using a great deal of his kit, not just the kick drum to bash out a repetitive rhythm.

And while progressive rock isn't about memorable choruses, it is this very thing that Tiles also excels at, because it draws you in to the song, into the lyrics, and thus to the point of it all. This is no more apparent than on the closer "Reasonable Doubt." I say Rarick's vocal style doesn't include soaring, but that's not entirely true - as here it does, not reaching for those impossible heights, but it soars like a bird on the wing, in that epic, emotional way. Simply beautiful. If "Taking Control" sells you, this will make you take them home with you (figuratively speaking, of course).

Two live tracks close out the album - "Patterns" and "Token Pledge" - and while the production is a bit muddy, I have now put their two previous disks on the gifts-to-self list (for which I don't need a holiday).

And so this review comes full circle - for all that it doesn't sound like Rush, the best comparison that can be made is to Rush - thoughtful, intelligent lyrical observations supported by a dynamic and driving beat. We should expect no less from any band we listen to - progressive rock or otherwise. This is simply great stuff and they are deserving of all the praise they are getting. Had I heard this a few months earlier, it surely would have made my Top 10 list.

And for the bad play on words for the month: you should have the presence of mind to pick up Presents Of Mind

Static (5:43) / Modification (3:42) / Crossing Swords (1:06) / Facing Failure (5:41) / The Learning Curve (6:40) / Ballad Of The Sacred Cows (6:55) / The Sandtrap Jig (0:48) / Taking Control (5:12) / Safe Procedures (7:04) / Reasonable Doubt (11:22) / Patterns (live) (4:05) / Token Pledge (live) (6:49)

Pat DeLeon - drums, percussion and backing vocals
Chris Herin - electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, and keyboards
Paul Rarick - lead and backing vocals
Jeff Whittle - bass guitar

Tiles (1994)
Fence The Clear (1997)
Presents Of Mind (1999)
Presence In Europe 1999 (2000)
Tiles - Special Edition (2004)
Fence The Clear - Special Edition (2004)
Presents Of Mind - Special Edition (2004)
Window Dressing (2004)
Fly Paper (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: January 10th 2000
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.tiles-music.com
Hits: 2020
Language: english


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