David Torn

Prezens | ECM
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  June 19, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
If you’re looking for a middle ground between Tool and John Coltrane, this is it. NYC-based guitarist David Torn has always been a master of texture and color, but he’s never sounded as raw as he does on “Bulbs,” which builds energy and momentum until it climaxes in a clubbing with a sonic baseball bat. His latest rig also allows him to sample and manipulate his own sound, so Torn plays cut-and-paste with his lines even as he’s spinning them, whipping backwards phrases into melodies and shuffling chords like a deck of ripped cards. It helps that drummer Tom Rainey is an energy player who can perform like a mock Elvin Jones and then pound out a fiendish rock beat for the squalling, staccato “Sink.” And Tim Berne’s alto-sax lines provide most of the album’s sweetening, in particular adding grace to the mysterious “Ak” — at least until Torn begins firing metallic junkyard meteors into the mix. It’s tempting to say that Torn is reinventing his style on these 11 songs. Even the Middle Eastern–influenced “Miss Place, The Mist . . . ” has a dark and angry edge — a subtly threatening quality generated by a minor key, strings, and gnawing, scraping, metallic percussion sounds that seem guitar-generated — that’s been absent from his earlier music. But he’s always been a refreshingly unpredictable composer and improviser.
Related: David Torn: Prezens, Listen up, Destination out, More more >
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