Tunnels - "Progressivity"
(Buckyball Records 2002, BR009)
From Aural Innovations #20 (July 2002)
This is, without a doubt, one of the finest fusion albums I've heard in the last 20 years. In the liner notes, the band makes no apology for their love of classic, early 70's fusion. That being said, don't expect anything too retro-sounding here. This is very modern fusion, but what these talented players have brought forward from the 70's is integrity of style that refuses to sacrifice to commercialism, and some truly adventurous composition and playing. As the liner notes warn: "this recording contains tonal nastiness, dissonance, harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, distortion, an abundance of blowing and other forms of sonic weirdness…"
Percy Jones on fretless bass and guest John Goodsall on guitar (both formerly of fusion pioneers Brand X) join Marc Wagnon on midi vibes and Frank Katz on drums. Wagnon's midi vibes have an amazing versatility of sound. They can add delicacy to a piece, as they do on the opening track, Syzygy Incident, or weirdly futuristic spaciness, as they do on the title track. And how about that rhythm section? Jones' bass is in fine form as always, whether he's funking it up on Fusionauts or playing it sweet and melodic on Some Things Must Last, and Katz's drumming is remarkable; the man is a master at forming order out of chaos. John Goodsall lends some smoking guitar work to three of the tracks, including a searing duel with Mark Feldman on violin on Wall to Wall Sunshine.
The album highlight is the 20-minute epic 7, 584, 333, 440 Miles Away (with an appropriately epic title, I might add!). This one's going to appeal to both fusion and space fans alike. From its slow, dissonant beginnings, to its rampaging interior, through ominous stretches of space, to whirling explosions of sound, this could be the soundtrack to some dark, futuristic outer space escapade. My only criticism of the piece is I think I would have rather it built up to some kind of conclusion, rather than just fading out at the end. It feels somehow unfinished. But then again, perhaps that was the idea. After all, once you get that far away, you're probably not going to stop.
Fusion lost something in the 80's, becoming a watered down version of it's former self that ultimately lead to trite forms of music such as smooth jazz. A lot of people lost faith in the future of fusion back then. Progressivity is the kind of album that can make you a believer again.
For more information you can visit the Tunnels web site at: http://buckyballmusic.com/progressivity/.
Contact via snail mail c/o Buckyball Records; PO Box 2034; Radio City Station, NY 10101.
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald