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Pretending 2 Run

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Album Review

Detroit's prog kings Tiles have always been an outlier on America's music scene, celebrated in Europe and Asia but overlooked at home. For over more than 20 years, they've created a unique sound that, while deeply indebted to Rush's hard rock (Alex Lifeson appeared on one of their albums, and Terry Brown is their producer) from the beginning, has developed exponentially to include elements of progressive metal, jazz fusion, and neo-classical elements.

Pretending 2 Run is Tiles' first studio album in eight years. It's a 96-minute, 21-song cycle with themes of betrayal, alienation, emotional darkness, spiritual catharsis, and redemption. The loosely constructed narrative revolves around a central character who has experienced sudden, severe trauma, and is sequestered in the solitude of his mind. The story isn't strictly linear — boundaries between past and present events and people blur. There is much for the listener to interpret but it isn't absolutely necessary to enjoy what's on offer because most of the songs stand on their own.

This quartet — guitarist and main composer Chris Herin, vocalist Paul Rarick, bassist Jeff Whittle, and drummer/percussionist Mark Evans — seamlessly weave stylistic, dynamic, and textural elements framed by brilliant production from Brown and engineering from Peter Moore. To realize the project, they enlisted the help of friends including Ian Anderson, Mike and Max Portnoy, Adam Holzman, Mike Stern, Colin Edwin, Kim Mitchell and Matthew Parmenter, as well as choirs, strings, and reeds. (The gorgeous booklet was designed by no less than Hugh Syme.) These kaleidoscopic styles begin to reveal themselves in the title cut, a hook-laden, progressive pop/rock tune with crystalline multi-tracked vocals and chunky heavy metal with hard rock riffs. "Shelter Me" combines Middle Eastern modalism, prog guitars and bass, cinematic metal drumming, and polyphonic neo-classical vocals in counterpoint. On "Stonewall," tambura, oboe, acoustic and electric guitars, synth, strings, and Mike Portnoy's fluid drumming drop the listener directly inside its architecture. "Voir Dire" (one of several fine instrumentals) nods at King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic II." In the 11-minute "Taken by Surprise," Holzman's organ fuels a knotty, forceful meld of charging jazz fusion as it meets metallic prog. "Refugium" is a brief (and stunning) wordless, classical choral piece. Massive melodic hooks, taut rhythmic grooves, angular counterpoint, and intuitive improvisational interplay mark the nine-minute "Weightless" (that briefly checks Yes' "And You & I" in an interlude). Whittle's rumbling, fluid bass provides a worthy foil for Mike Stern's burning solo on "The Disappearing Floor," while "Uneasy Truce," another instrumental, showcases Joe Deninzon on violin going head to head with Herin and the rhythm section. Holzman's ambient "The View from Here" (with Herin on glockenspiel) introduces the unsettling yet gentle closer "Blacksliding" rife with oboe, strings and mandolin, and concluding with brittle martial snares.

Pretending 2 Run is massive, obsessive even. But it is also free of self-indulgence. Disciplined performances and lyric economy balance the breadth of Tiles' ambition with depth and maturity that only longevity like theirs brings. Who says the concept album is dead? Brilliant.

Customer Reviews

Phenomenal Achievement

Highly recommend! The melodies flow through this entire collection as if one continuous song. Headphones are required to complete the full effect. The spirit of RUSH, YES and Pink Floyd flow heavily through the entire album. My new favorite listen!


Formed: 1993 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in 1993 and featuring Paul Rarick on vocals, Chris Herin on lead guitar, Jeff Whittle on bass, and Mark Evans on drums, classic hard rock/progressive rock band Tiles are very reminiscent of Rush. After much success on the local Detroit music scene, Tiles released their self-titled debut in 1994. Buoyed by success in Japan and Europe, Tiles issued their second album, 1997's Fence the Clear, featuring new drummer Pat Deleon. This second album was produced by longtime Rush producer Terry Brown...
Full Bio
Pretending 2 Run, Tiles
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