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Presents of Mind
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Released June 29, 1999

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

It only takes a quick crane around to realize that there are very few bands out there plying their trade under the umbrella of progressive rock that remember the original spirit of the term. Tiles is one such precious act, kicking their heels down a pathway that has less to do with the over-processed, over-populated, over-shredded progressive metal genre and more to do with the organic, unpredictable process of creativity. Think Phish. Think crest-of-the-millennium Rush. More on that later...

Through 3 records, this Detroit-based act has quietly molded themselves into a world entity, gaining a following in both Europe and Japan through their self-titled debut, the follow-up Fence The Clear, and now Presents Of Mind. Tiles guitarist and chief songwriter Chris Herin offers contrast through this distinguished career. "I was actually putting the band together during the first CD," Chris offers with a laugh. "I don't want to call it a solo album, but I had the songs written, and as members joined the band, they came in and did their parts. The second album was more of a band effort, born of our growing live experience really. We tried not to do too many overdubs, staying a little truer to our live instrumentation. But then we fell out of favor with that concept, and adopted the idea that a CD is virtually forever. There's no reason not to fill out the arrangements. So the third album is a combination of the live approach, getting all the basic tracks down, and overdubbing keyboards and guitars until we felt they had been arranged according to what is called for."

What results is a stunning and electric display of guitar-charged oddity, not so much metal but hard rock well outside the rules. The compositions on 'Presents Of Mind' build on Herin's love of latter-day song-based Rush, lost prog like Kansas and, of all things, mid-'70s Elton John. "All of us have wildly divergent tastes, lots of prog in there like Genesis and Queensryche, some metal like Maiden and Priest but also jazz, classical, and this strong current of people I would consider great songwriters."

Presents Of Mind is full of such evident, pleasurable songs, right from the opening power chords and wide-open drums of 'Static', through the Spanish-tinged 'Modification' and the heads-down riffery of 'Taking Control' (look for the banjo and mandolin!), choruses aflame, sent on the wings of Paul Rarick's clear and cutting lead vocals. In between, the band assembles then disassembles for engaging experiments such as the guitar and percussion duet within 'Crossing Swords' and the Jethro Tull tomfoolery of 'Sandtrap Jig.' Chris is particularly taken with closing 11-minute tour de force 'Reasonable Doubt'. "'Reasonable Doubt' is our production number. We knew we were going to throw so much stuff into it, we weren't possibly going to play it live. It's a song about a guy who has been accused of committing a murder in a small town. Once he became a suspect, there was no possible way he would be acquitted. It's actually my favorite song on the album, because it's a very powerful mesh of the lyrical content with the music; almost Pink Floyd-ish in an atmospheric, emotional way. I don't think it sounds like Floyd in any way, but it has an atmosphere like 'Comfortably Numb'. It kind of pulls you in."

Lyrically, Tiles have balanced their presentation between the cryptic and the instructional, offering a barely discernible thread throughout the record. Herin explains. "As a progressive band, we hesitated in using any sort of mind concept, because to me, brains, intellect, all of that is way played-out. Needless to say, we succumbed to the temptation (laughs). But there are multiple meanings, including presence of mind as in someone who is effective in emergencies, on the ball, and by extension, the general idea within human nature that human beings have an uncanny ability to adapt to their surroundings. And then there is the idea that the mind is a present, that having a mind is truly a gift."

The lyrical depth of the project so impressed top cover artist Hugh Syme (Megadeth, Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, all the Rush albums since Caress Of Steel), that Syme decided to take the project on. What emerged was an elegant if somewhat shocking image of a realistic brain, tied with a blue bow, hovering above a desert, with various mind imagery underscoring the theme throughout the booklet. The look has been given a "cinema noir" treatment for the record's US release.

Further into Rush connections, Tiles secured the mixing acumen of legendary producer Terry Brown to give Presents Of Mind that added magic. The end result is palpably fresh, all of the band's confident instrumentation leaping off the plastic as if immersed in lively dance, despite the detail of intelligent layering. "It's definitely a headphone album," offers Chris. "There's a lot going on in there, although these are proving to be some of the most refreshing songs to play live, especially 'Static.' How we work with Terry is basically this. We record all the basic tracks here in Detroit. We usually have 24 tracks. We do a lot of keyboards on the hard drive and synch it up to the two inch tape. So you could have up to 39 or 40 tracks of music, and then it's handed over to Terry to mix. He has a little project studio that he operates out of Toronto, down on the waterfront. He has a lot of input into the final product. We try to give him as much freedom as possible on how to position the parts within the stereo spectrum."

One final note of victory for North American buyers who have become so used to being shortchanged in the bonus track department. The Magna Carta issue of Presents Of Mind includes two bonus live tracks not found on the European issue. "'Patterns', from our last album, is one of the two live bonus tracks," Chris explains. "It is important to note that these are truly live. They couldn't even be mixed. It's a slightly abridged version because we recorded it for a TV show here in Detroit and we only had so much time. It's live, you'll hear a little feedback, the levels aren't quite what you would want, but it comes off good. Same thing with 'Token Pledge', which is off the first album."

Looking back on the three records Tiles has assembled, Chris tries to grasp where the band fits in all this. A description of the Tiles sound? "Un-trendy with no chance of mass popularity (laughs). Just kidding. I guess we're progressive to the point of mixing hybrid types of music, which is close to the original definition, which was starting with hard rock music and taking liberties, meaning if the song ends up longer, that's cool. If it turns out complex and convoluted, and if it makes sense to us and a few basic musical principles, we go with that too. We're extremely satisfied with the outcome of the whole thing, because we've learned what could have been better on the first two CDs, and tried to make it happen on the new one. So songwriting-wise we have a naturally recurring variety of shorter, straight-ahead stuff, but still packed with what we would consider a progressive tradition of time signature and key changes." Judging from fan response so far, the recipe is an explosive one, sure to keep the prog-heads happy and hopping.

Click here to order Tiles' CD, Presents of Mind.

Presents of Mind

Catalog # : MA-9038-2
Price : $16.98

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