"Müüt: Live in Estonia (Unsung/Iapetus; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The title of Tuner’s latest album is enough to tell you that this is a live recording, but what's surprising is that these are totally new compositions, not just live renditions of songs from the first two Tuner studio releases.

As always, Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto impress at every turn. If anything, the new compositions on “Müüt” are a little darker and underscored by fright – sort of a psychological horror soundtrack. Consequently, these live recordings are literally and figuratively a journey through doubt, melancholy, and the like.

Reuter’s touch guitar swells and shimmers, eliciting an ebb and flow while easily switching from high notes to bass tones, in reverse, and everything in between. Ample proof of how versatile the touch guitar is when you know there’s no opportunity to stop the recording tape. Mastelotto consistently and patiently provides the right percussive tone and intensity. It’s always hard to judge the skills of drummers as it is far too easy to rely on one’s own perceptions of speed and technical skills – but with Mastelotto the listener needs to absorb the subtle nuances of his percussion as it weaves in and out of Reuter’s sonic landscape.

Not that it should make that big of a difference, but “Müüt” is an (almost) entirely instrumental affair which leads me to believe this effort was almost entirely improvised or at the very least improvised from rough musical sketches worked out prior to the actual performance.

“Müüt: Live in Estonia” was produced by Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto. The recording alone has the sort of sonic inconsistencies expected in a live recording, yet this facet of the album should be overlooked.

Tuner is Markus Reuter and Pat Mastelotto.

For more information visit http://www.myspace.com/tunertunes.

"Totem" (Unsung; 2008)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

I finally get my chance to review Tuner’s “Totem” (see review of “Pole” below). Originally released in 2005 this 2008 reissue of Tuner’s debut disc has been remastered and remixed. “Pole” was a mostly tantalizing experience as the touch guitar is a novel way to hear a stringed instrument and the fact that the progressive experience of the Tuner duo (Reuter and Mastelotto) has serious credentials. Additionally, the joy in going back in time to review “Totem” is to see where Totem came from musically.

Verbs are useful devices in describing songs, for example: pulsating (“Flinch”), marching (“Up, Down, Forward and Return” and the title track), contemplating (“Mouth Piece”), bouncing (“Hands”), and scraping (“Kiss the Earth”). Tuner seemingly takes influences more from movies/pictures/images rather than other music – much in the same way Trey Gunn (another touch guitar devotee) did with his recent “Music for Pictures”. The songs on “Totem” are expansive and exploratory whereas on “Pole” the songs were for the most part shorter and more focused. 

“Totem” is largely an instrumental affair. Vocals are sparingly used – or at least what sounds like vocals are sparingly used. The vocal sounds simply could be synthesizers and vocal samples made to sound like the human voice not so much singing as adding a complementary sound.

While I don’t have the original debut disc to compare this remastered/remixed version I can only assume that it sounds better.  Besides, the first pressing of the debut is probably out-of-print anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

“Totem” was produced by Tuner.

Tuner is Markus Reuter on touch guitar, organ, synthesizer, and programming and Pat Mastelotto on percussion, drums, programming and samples. Reuter and Mastelotto are joined by SiRenee on vocals.

For more information visit http://www.tunerband.com

"Pole" (Unsung/Iapetus/Inner Knot; 2007)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Tuner is a duo composed of Markus Reuter on touch guitar and Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson fame on drums. “Pole” is a follow-up to Tuner’s debut CD “Totem” which I gather garnered critical acclaim for its uniqueness and bravado. Unfortunately, I’ve not had a chance to hear “Totem,” but I wish that I had that opportunity.

“Pole” could easily be classified as modern progressive rock. What I hear on “Pole” is similar to recent The Gathering, combining elements of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, and Peter Gabriel. The progressive rock I hear is similar to Porcupine Tree’s ability to be daring without being outlandish as well as Chroma Key’s ability to use slow, deliberate pacing to great effect. “Pole” is heavy on bass and drums with keyboards, synthesizers, piano, guitars, and other noises darting in and out. Patience required is required when listening to “Pole” as it does not fit standard listening fare – there is no doubt about that. However, as is often said on the pages of Rough Edge, patience is often rewarded with revealing musical patterns, rhythms, and arrangements that tantalize the ears. 

Tuner employs a variety of vocalists in various styles. The variety of vocalists creates a storybook narrative where all the characters are each contributing their fair share to the storytelling. However, the many spoken word elements skirt on the edge of being annoying – but maybe that’s my unfamiliarity with spoken word as a major part of my listening choices. In the end, the spoken word elements are extraordinarily useful.

The combination of sounds, sonic elements, and various vocal styles on “Pole” is concurrently futuristic and retro. Perhaps it’s better to simply to say “forward-thinking and respectful” – that seems much more appropriate. I won’t pretend to wow readers with overuse of adjectives and/or flowery prose. I will however state this: Tuner are progressive without being standard, cerebral without being unlistenable, and exciting without being overbearing.

“Pole” was produced by Tuner and co-produced by Fabio Trenti.

Tuner are Markus Reuter on touch guitars, acoustic and electric guitars, electric bass guitar, grand piano, keyboards, and vocals and Pat Mastelotto on drums, percussion, treated grand piano, and spoken word. Guests include Sirenee on vocals, Peter Kingsberry of Cock Robin on vocals, Lisa Fletcher on vocals, Pamelia Kurstin on theremin, Laura Scarborough on vibraphone, melodica, and wind organ, Roberto Riggio on violins, Deborah Carter on vocals, and Kristopher G. Rygg on one growl. 

For more information visit http://www.tunerband.com

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

Back to CD Reviews Home

Back to RoughEdge.com Home

Copyright © 2009 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 18 Sep 2023 21:51:20 -0400.