TUNNELS: Progressivity (Buckyball) When you open the booklet for the new Tunnels CD, the first thing you see is the following:

"Warning: This recording contains tonal nastiness, dissonance, harmonic and rhythmic abstraction, distortion, an abundance of intense blowing and other forms of sonic weirdness that may cause harmful side effects such as hives, palpitations, fibrillations, aneurisms, facial swelling, wheezing and may lead to serious brain damage. Do not play while operating heavy machinery or while under the influence of smooth jazz."

Having said that, Progressivity is probably the best fusion release since Niacin's High Bias disc a few years ago. With its shades of the Dixie Dregs, late-era Frank Zappa and mid-70's Jean-Luc Ponty, this is not a disc for the musically timid. The intricate rhythmic structures make for a challenging listen, but hey--that's what you want in a fusion album, right?

The group's core trio--which includes former Brand X bassist, Percy Jones, Marc Wagnon on MIDI vibes, and Frank Katz on the drum kit--is joined by John Goodsall on guitar (also from Brand X) Marc Feldman on violin and, on two tracks, Wagnon's wife, Sarah Pillow on 'prepared voice.'

From the trippy, brooding sounds of "Syzygy Incident," to John Goodsall's shredding lead guitar work on "Fusionauts," to more accessible cuts like the title track or "Some Things Must Last," there's a wide spectrum of musical styles lurking on Progressivity. As a rhythm section, Jones and Katz are a real powerhouse when they need to be. Yet when things quiet down, they bring a sense of calm and beauty to the music as well.

Best of all, the band clearly shows they're not afraid to sacrifice commercial success for the sake of artistic integrity (be sure to check out the 20-minute epic, "7,584,333,440 Miles Away"). That's always a good thing.

© 2002 Steve Marshall
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