Album Review: Tunnels – The Blackout [Reissue]




Originally released in 2011, The Blackout signified a vast sonic departure for Tunnels, the solo outlet of former Eternal Tapestry guitarist Nicholas Bindeman. Trading his six-strings for dusty electronics, Binderman had chosen a new path that routed through the fuzz of Throbbing Gristle and the murky pop sheen of Gary Numan. This fractured ambiance struck a chord with the Thrill Jockey fanbase, and the album quickly disappeared off shelves. The vibe also had a limited shelf-life, as Bindeman quickly transitioned back toward guitar-focused compositions for 2012’s Think Outside the Box EP.

Bindeman’s psych-guitar proficiency and novice approach to synthesizers combined to form short odes soaked with dejected anonymity. With track lengths substantially shorter than those of prior releases, melody rarely lingers; instead, the album focuses on tension-building shifts. “How I Hate You”, for example, slowly evokes a sense of unrelenting negativity, fed by a pulsing, gothic synth line and escalating into a nape-tingling alarm screech.

Bindeman creates aural paper cuts with his riffs, moments of sharp, temporary pain. The charisma he exudes on “Volt 1979” is continually stabbed with ear-piercing sirens. The deconstructed industrial fills of “Deux” are lined with bird chirps. An operatic vocal run bleeds into “Without Light”, while lasers shoot through the David Bowie-leaning “Solid Space”. These one-off distractions add character and an element of differentiation from the 1980’s UK synth pop it often so closely emulates.

While much of the album basks in the waveforms of yesteryear, “Magic Flowers” (perhaps unintentionally) embodies a still-burgeoning underground sound. As house music grows more massive to appease festival crowds, the track’s minimal framework has become a regular tone in deep house circles. A bridge from the past toward the future, The Blackout is deserving of this reissue even after just two years.

Essential Tracks: “Deux”, “Magic Flowers”, and ”Solid Space”