While there’s no denying the appeal of music that operates on an instant-gratification level, offering tricked-up tunes full of carefully baited hooks, in the end the albums that really stick with you will almost always be the ones that provide a truly immersive experience. That’s the way it is with The Blackout, the latest release from Tunnels. It’s a record that unfurls its sonic secrets slowly and purposefully, setting a darkly dreamy mood that feels perfectly suited to sweaty, sluggish summer nights, which is ironic, considering that it’s inspired chiefly by the emotionally chilly musical subgenre colloquially known as cold wave.
Nicholas Bindeman is the man from whom all the sounds on The Blackout emerge. The multi-talented Oregonian is seemingly too young to have experienced cold wave’s heyday first-hand, when its perfect 1980s storm of synth pop and post punk blended into an effectively overcast vision of new wave’s dark underbelly. But that hasn’t stopped him from assimilating those sounds into his own music. Pressed for specifics, he rattles off a list of synth-toting ‘80s cult heroes that you just know is only the tip of his inspirational iceberg. “Crash Course in Science, Charles de Goal, Martin Rev, Snowy Red, Tuxedomoon, Jeff and Jane Hudson, blah blah blah, it just goes on,” he exclaims. “I do truly love the music from that era, and while it’s not exactly an original influence these days, it is what it is, the collective unconscious has spoken.”
The abject-but-accessible vibe that permeates many of the tracks on Bindeman’s album has as much to do with his own sensibility as his record collection, though. “There’s a element of myself on there that can’t really be attributed to any specific influence,” he asserts, “ something nocturnal, something slightly cold and melodramatic.” And from the disembodied-sounding, electronically processed vocals on opening track “Crystal Arms” to the memorably misanthropic Gary Numanisms of “How I Hate You” and the deliciously creepy, Pornography-era Cure feel of the bass and guitar lines on “Dead Ringers,” The Blackout duly weaves its mournfully magical spell, pulling you effortlessly along in its eerie, electronic undertow.
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