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Great music difficult to label

By Tunnels

Buckyball Music: 2002

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This review first appeared in the June 24, 2002 edition of the American Reporter.

The thing about trying to describe the band Tunnels is that there doesn't seem to be any single Tunnels sound.

Even on an individual song, the band can change gears to radically that what starts out as a straight-ahead if muscular bit of fusion can soon delightfully degrade into a wonderful stew of free-form ensemble improvisation.

This is the third or fourth outing by the core group of Tunnels (the press release wasn't real clear on that) – bassist Percy Jones, Marc Wagnon on midi vibes, and drummer Frank Katz. They have the kind of relaxed intensity that comes only from playing together often and over along period of time; that familiarity allows them to attempt stuff other outfits can't even dream about. And their two guest artists, guitarist John Goodsall and violinist Mark Feldman, have the talent and guts to keep up every step of the way.

On "Wall to Wall Sunshine," the band lets Feldman and Goodsall have the spotlight – and they wring every bit out of their time out front. Goodsall's opening guitar lead sets a tone of intensity that Feldman then turns up a notch – and so it goes, back and forth, for about four and a half minutes.

Jones really kicks it on "Frank's Beard," laying down big, fat cushions of bass that create a sonic bubble wrap that the rest of the band can then hop around on without fear of falling. On "Diabollocks," the next song, he takes that deep-friend thump of his even deeper, while Wagnon noodles over top of it.

And about 17 minutes into the lengthy "7,584,333,4440 Miles Away" is a tight little vamp on "Amazing Grace" by Goodsall that reminds more than a bit of Hendrix turning "The Star Spangled Banner" inside out.

But this album is full of those kinds of surprises – little musical gems that continue to delight as the CD is played over and over again ... as it will be.