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Tunnels: The Blackout

C

Tunnels

Album: The Blackout
Label: Thrill Jockey

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As a member of the experimental outfits Jackie-O Motherfucker and Eternal Tapestry, Nicholas Bindeman has been party to all manner of sonic exploration. And his solo project, Tunnels, has served as a synthesized, minimalist palate-cleanser between heavier outings. On Tunnels’ new full-length, The Blackout, Bindeman has taken a much more conventional, retro-’80s approach—and where the project previously unsettled and intrigued, it now shamelessly, and at times shoddily, rehashes.

On the plus side, Bindeman’s pastiche feels wholly genuine. When, on “Volt 1979,” he lifts siren-like synth riffs wholesale from Berlin’s “The Metro,” there’s an icy crush at play; the same goes with “Red Road,” which wears its love of “Wishing (If I Had A Photograph Of You),” A Flock Of Seagulls’ lesser-known hit, on its cyborg sleeve. The Blackout’s fault lies not in its reverence, but its commitment; trapped in Tunnels’ yawning gauntness, Bindeman fails to fill the album with enough hooks and substance to latch onto. On the other hand, if he’d only taken the minimalism one step further, something truly striking and austere might have emerged. Instead, The Blackout bumps around in a vacuum, with Bindeman howling robotically into it.