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.
2) Up, Down, Forward and Return
3) Mouth Piece
5) A Test of Faith
6) The Morning Tide Washes Away
8) Better Take Your Head Off
9) Kiss the Earth
10) Dexter Ward