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Tuner: Totem

Do not go out and buy a new CD player after spinning the first few songs on Totem, the 2005 debut album from the duo known as Tuner — remastered and remixed for wider public consumption after the success of 2007's Pole. Your disc player is not making those erratic skipping sounds on the hyperactive opener "Flinch;" drummer Pat Mastelotto and touch-guitarist/producer Markus Reuter are. Next comes the heavy exercise-related breathing that opens "Up, Down, Forward and Return" — a chaotic, effects-heavy head trip. An ambient yet seductive female voice dominates "The Morning Tide Washes Away," an eerily soothing seven-and-a-half-minute soliloquy set to Reuter's synths and programming techniques, while Mastelotto shows off his funky side on "Hands." "A Test of Faith" with its fuzzed-out riffs and ripe rhythm section, comes closest to an actual song among these 10 tracks, but it reverberates with modulated voices and too much experimentation that seems to exist simply for the sake of experimentation. In fact, many of these songs get bogged down by repetitive instrumental phrasing, runaway voices and murky arrangements.

On Pole, Mastelotto and Reuter turned practically every progressive-rock cliché on its side in an attempt to join the lofty ranks of Tool, Porcupine Tree and Nine Inch Nails without blaspheming Mastelotto's old band, King Crimson. The duo even rapped. It's a sign of just how much progress Tuner made between Totem and Pole.

Track Listing:
1) Flinch
2) Up, Down, Forward and Return
3) Mouth Piece
4) Totem
5) A Test of Faith
6) The Morning Tide Washes Away
7) Hands
8) Better Take Your Head Off
9) Kiss the Earth
10) Dexter Ward

Added: February 3rd 2009
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Tuner Web Site
Hits: 2209
Language: english

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Tuner: Totem
Posted by Richard Barnes, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-02-03 06:45:47
My Score:

This is a rerelease of the debut album by Tuner from 2005. Tuner are Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson and German multi-instrumentalist and producer Markus Reuter of Anglo-German band Centrozoon. The album has been remastered and remixed to a high standard and the Crimson influence is immediately apparent in the opening track "Flinch" which is reminiscent of some of Trey Gunn's work. The juddering touch guitar and percussion are enhanced by programming and synth contributions giving the piece more of an electronic feel than mainstream Crimson. Breathy vocals introduce the next track which develops into something of a symphonic offering with a series of narrated phrases working as an additional instrument in this complicated polyrhythmic creation.

"Mouth piece" might have actually been a good title for the previous track but this one works as well using radio, news edits and vocals with electronic manipulation over a rather gloomy and desolate synth undercoat. The electronic drums are a bit irritating though and somewhat inaptly used on this otherwise atmospheric track. The title track is quite a minimalist affair with a hypnotic percussion figure, light synth touches, the odd electronic squelch and an alternative juxtaposed percussion rhythm flitting in and out.

"A Test of Faith" opens with a ghostly vocal as if in a séance with an atmospheric synth background. Growling bass lines and thundering drums kick in from time to time in this eerie yet vaguely disturbing number. "The Morning Tide Washes Away" also has a vocoder intro, this time with a female singer reading poetry samples and generating a futuristic soundtrack imagery. The Laurie Anderson style track creates a soothing soporific effect and for me is the highlight of the album. Time appears to be the theme in "Hands" with processed clock-chimes, pattering drums, electronic blips and strange vocal injections bringing the tempo back up from the preceding two tracks.

The upbeat tempo continues with "Better take your head off" as the duo attempt to do just that after lulling the listener with an innocent looking opening synth and drum arrangement. A droning organ provides the bedrock for guitar and synth to grind and squeeze against each other, with a cacophony of percussion both within the piece and in the background. "Kiss the Earth" has a suitably organic feel to it with electronic pops and vocals bubbling up around the African rhythm. One could imagine Peter Gabriel writing something like this and being rather proud of it. The track has a brilliant rhythm and a descending guitar figure driving it through its paces.

The album closes with "Dexter Ward", featuring a vibraphone contribution and other sounds which continue the organic feel of the previous track albeit within a techno framework. The compositions on this album cross several genres from jazz to ambient, industrial and electronic. For fans of Projekt King Crimson and their members' solo works, this one will fit nicely.

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