Brand X electric bass guitar icon Percy Jones is the biggest name in this colorful quartet, but the least obvious leader. More upfront guitarist Van Manakas with midi vibist Marc Wagnon and drummer Frank Katz comprise Tunnels. There's no synthesizer player credited, so it's evident that either Manakas or more likely Wagnon is triggering various hued electronic washings. The music is definitly early fusion oriented and cleverly conceived for a post-'70s Y2K era. Tunnels depend on funk rhythms for the most part: cool on the title track, the same under serene and interactive multi-melodic musings from the frontmen and Jones on "Quai des Brumes," easy and rockier with choppy vibes and spacy, snarly guitar in the context of "Land of the Hazmats," or heavier and dramatic with way-out to plunky synth incursions and oohing vocals from Sarah Pillow during "House of Marc." They use a hard-edged 5/4 start-stop line with the lead heavy, juggernaut signature sound of Jones most prevalent on "Black Light" while relying on 6/8 lilt to 4/4 merengue funk on the unison vibes/guitar charting of "Lilly's Dolphin." The roiling to quirky, multi-dimensional drum streams of Katz set up the pounding bass, quietly screaming or fleet, stinging guitar and scurrying vibes on "Neuro-Transmitter," and Katz also offers a fresh and funky drum solo on "Unity Gain." The two anomalous selections are the highlights, a near 11-minute jazz like jam/swinger "Bad American Dream 2001" sports chiming bells, wack goofy synths, and an extended thematic progression reminiscent of "In a Silent Way," while the ethnocentric "Boyz in the Ud" (cute title!) has Manakas showcased on a stringed instrument sounding like an oud or saz. There's an Arabic feel to the piece, gong cued in a Middle Eastern workout replete with finger cymbals, hand percussion, and flute synthesizers wafting over the wind of the desert sands. Modern and classic jazz-rock fusion ideals congeal to offer a new music that has a stance standing solidly in both idioms with the powerful, clearly identifiable bass of Jones plopped squarely in the middle. Recommended, especially for devotees.
Painted Rock Review
by Michael G. Nastos