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Tuner

Totem

Review by Gary Hill

This is the first disc that was released by Tuner – a collaboration of Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and Markus Reuter (Centrozoon).  For many of us, though, it’s the second album. That’s because this has just been reissued based on the success of their latest disc Pole. Fans of RIO (Rock In Opposition) should like this. It’s got a lot of experimentation and free form arrangements. There are definitely some sections that have King Crimson leanings, but it seems a no-brainer that KC fans will want to pick this up. It’s a cool CD if a bit on the strange side.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Flinch
A fusion oriented groove leads this off and holds it for a while. As they move this into the next section they use a rather annoying technique. It seems like the CD is skipping. So much so that I had to check. It really kind of hurts to listen to that portion. Eventually this gives way to a more ambient section over which a woman’s voice speaks. After a little while they give us a more powered up return to the opening segment, but just for a short time. More ambient weirdness ends this.
Up, Down, Forward and Return
A weird spoken series of words begins this and holds it for a time. They shift out into a killer Crimson-like jam and spoken vocals are laid over the top of this in a unique arrangement. This is worked through a couple different sections At first it’s more textural and then it powers out into crunchy killer progressive rock. Another section of those words that lead us in takes it mid track. They bring back in the harder motifs and it’s even more powerful this time around. They drop it back again later, but not as far. This is an unusual and rather strange composition, but it’s also very powerful. It eventually drops way down to end.
Mouth Piece
They start this off more ambient. The percussion brings in a faster movement and there are sound effects all over this. It never moves far from this concept, but it’s a cool track.
Totem
Pretty much strictly ambient, this is an intriguing, if understated, composition. 
A Test of Faith
As weird as this is, I love it. The central driving force here is a distorted, processed spoken vocal. Percussion and sound effects serve as the backdrop for this, but they turn it more towards rock music (albeit weird rock music) at times. This also becomes rather dissonant at times. It’s actually one of my favorites pieces, but I can’t tell you why. I’m not a huge fan of RIO and this is similar to that style, but somehow this really works.
The Morning Tide Washes Away
“The morning tide washes away what happened at night.” A woman’s voice starts us off with that spoken declaration. This vocal feels like something that’s patched together with little pieces of speech assembled – perhaps like the old voice simulators. As ambient tones come in to move this forward we get more of these little voice bits. The patchwork effect is even more prominent here. Some hints of singing emerge here and there. Mid track there is sort of a false ending and then we get more sung vocals, but again that patched together feeling is present. At times this singing has a world music texture. The music gets rather pretty here – but still weird and ambient. This second incarnation of the piece reminds me a lot of Laurie Anderson. This song is another that I like a lot despite (or perhaps because of) its weird textures.
Hands
The first half of this is more ambient and strange, but mid-section they turn it out into a rather rocking groove. Keep in mind, even this portion is still strange, but it’s got more of a rock music feeling to it. It doesn’t stay there, long, though. Instead they move it back down to ambience and Mastellotto really steals the show with his percussion for a while. After moving back into more pure ambience they turn almost to a Latin party music sound – but still keep it weird.
Better Take Your Head Off
We get more weirdness here. At first it’s more ambient, but they create a more rocking groove later. The title reminds me of “One of These Days (I’m Going to Cut You Into Little Pieces),” but the resemblance pretty much ends there.
Kiss the Earth
This one has more of a rhythmic groove. It’s also got a jazz feel to it in places, but overall is still similar to the odd sounds of the rest of the CD. There’s a few mellower segments on this (a couple of which have what sounds like a singalong happening). “Kiss the Earth” also includes some of the more King Crimson-like moments of the disc late in its course. This section is one of the more “rocking” portions of the disc. At over eight and a half minutes in length this composition is the longest one on the album.

Dexter Ward
The first half of this is in the fairly ambient style. As they work their way through, though, they turn it more towards harder edged stylings. Parts of this almost feel like metal striking metal. It’s a cool tune and another highlight of the disc. That makes it an excellent way to close it out. It turns back out to ambience to end.
 
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