Tu-Ner – T1 – Contact Information

Tu-Ner – T1 – Contact Information

Ever since seeing Touch guitarist Marcus Reuter perform in an improv trio format several years back, I have been intrigued by the man. He is nothing if not prolific. He also has a knack for surrounding himself with equally formidable talents. With Pat Mastelotto (Mr. Mister, King Crimson), he has been half of Tuner, who have released four albums since 2005. With the addition of Mastelotto’s King Crimson mate Trey Gunn on Warr guitar, they have modified the name slightly to Tu-Ner (a nod to the Mastelotto/Gunn duo TU) and released new double album T1 – Contact Information.

Much of the new album is spontaneous, some planned, but damned if I can tell you which is which. What I can tell you is that this is raw, adventurous, exciting and innovative music that will delight and frighten in equal measure anyone who listens.

Percussion and low, guttural drones set the table for Crowfin (Having Some Fun Now) with Mastelotto throwing all sorts of sounds at the listener. The Touch and Warr guitars simultaneously beg the questions which is which and why does neither sound like any guitar you’ve ever heard before. You know you are setting yourself up for unbridled weirdness when a vocoder proclaims “We’re having some fun now”. This is all angularity and sharp edges imploring you to pay attention or risk losing an ear. Drums carry the song as the only conventional sound. Don’t be fooled; although rarely melodic, the music pulls you in as if you were a fly caught in a spiderweb. The bass sounds reverberate as if from some subterranean depth while the guitar notes are like rubber, bouncing from one octave to the next and across measures, equally mesmerising and haunting. As if rewarding the listener for making it through the first fifteen minutes, the funky groove that starts 31 is deceptive, leading you to expect something along the lines of Talking Heads, but instead taking you to places your brain has never conceived of. There is a recognisable structure to both the guitar and drum patterns, at least intermittently, but just when you think it’s safe to bop to the beat, there is a breakdown that melts your grey matter as you wonder how they got here from there. The bass and drums join in an onslaught that will leave you rapt, while the guitar leads will have you scratching your head in pleasant bewilderment.

Imagine being lost in a dark cave, surrounded by a myriad of unidentifiable creatures you cannot see, and Apple Turtle is your soundtrack. Eerie, slippery, slimy, with no idea what lies before you would describe both the situation and the sound created by these three brilliant musicians who defy expectations and have fun doing it. Even after several listens, its impossible to intuit what lies around the next turn. On the Other Side is slightly more comforting, the pulsing rhythm sounding as it does like some outtake from an ’80s King Crimson album. The bass follows a hypnotic, repetitive pattern while the guitar is all Frippian delight, soaring like an eagle surveying its territory for prey. Although the most traditional track in terms of structure and performance, it never quite veers into commerciality thanks to its dark eccentricities.

Contact Information is a twenty-four minute epic with so much going on, it’s over before you know it. It begins with barely decipherable electronic voices which disturb the steady pace Mastelotto sets. Electronics and distorted guitars add the illusion of chord structure as the lead lines appear to emulate construction machinery, such as heavy-duty drills. The sound of percussion, voices and electronics builds and competes, layering one on top of the other, then giving way for new sounds. Guitar excursions straight out of the mid-period Crimson playbook break through the ever-shifting soundscapes, distracting the listener’s attention from a persistent airy spaciousness. Hearkening back to KC’s Larks Tongues in Aspic, there are numerous found sounds floating through the mix – blocks, wind chimes, ropes being pulled taut, squeaking pet toys. Hardly a minute passes that the ears aren’t drawn to something new.

Disc two opens with Poem for A Sad Horse, a sorrowful series of cascading sounds. Both beautiful and disturbing, the echoed notes almost disguise the fact that there is a melody going on. The drums hold this song together, as they tend to do throughout the rest of the album. When they drop out for the last few minutes, the atmosphere turns spacey, ethereal and ambient. A good lead in to the second epic, Forcibly Taken into the Future. Reuter and Gunn hold the spotlight, creating sounds that cannot be made while Mastelotto gives a masterclass in dexterity and endurance on sundry percussion. As with most of the pieces on T1 – Contact Information, the electronics and soundscapes play an important role, replacing traditional keyboard instruments to add depth and breadth and softening the sharpened edges of the Warr and Touch guitars as they slice and crunch.

Moses offers a softer approach, giving the feel of floating downstream. The tranquility is upset midway as the drums become more agitated and voices rise above the instrumentation to talk about selling worn-out mechanical equipment. Just another exercise in the bizarre which runs through the album like a subterranean river. Final track Poodles features a repetitive guitar figure which serves as a backdrop for strongly tuneful leads and presents the drums with an opportunity to go where they might not otherwise travel were they carrying the timekeeping duties. Nothing about this is predictable other than the incredibly intuitive interplay shared between these three amazing gentlemen.

The fact that Messers Mastelotto, Reuter and Gunn never sound quite the same from one improvisational instrumental project to another is a testament to their skill and talent. If you are a casual listener unfamiliar with these players and their take on improv, you might hear nothing but cacophony. But a dedicated listener will hear how the sounds develop, subtly sometimes, aggressively at others. T1 – Contact Information requires active listening, meaning it is not for everyone. But anyone who invests in these nearly two hours of challenging music will find it rich in rewards.

Disc One

01. Crowfin (Having Some Fun Now) (14:45)
02. 31 (08:12)
03. Apple Turtle (8:11)
04. On the Other Side (5:31)
05. Contact Information (23:34)

Time – 60:13

Disc Two
01. Poem for A Sad Horse (11:20)
02. Forcibly Taken into the Future (22:37)
03. Moses (9:44)
04. Poodles (9:07)

Time – 52:48

Total Time – 113:01

Pat Mastelotto – Drums, Electronics, Vocoder
Marcus Reuter – Touch Guitar, Soundscapes
Trey Gunn – Warr Guitar, Fretless Warr Guitar, Vocoder

Record Label: 7D Media
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 14th August 2023

Tu-Ner – Website | Bandcamp