David Torn / Mick Karn / Terry Bozzio — Polytown
(CMP Records CD 1006, 1994, CD)
by Dan Casey, 1994-10-01:David Torn (guitars, effects), Mick Karn (fretless bass) and Terry Bozzio (drums, percussion) have all been around the block, and this unlikely trio have released one of the years most interesting and original albums with Polytown. Session legend Terry Bozzio is a drummer among drummers, heralded by peers of stature as one of the best in the business. While much of his session work is dismally overshadowed by those he is working for (e.g. Steve Vai) he holds nothing back on Polytown. Syncopation and polyrhythms are his emphasis, and his approach to the kit on this album has to be heard to be believed. Torn usually is found doing bizarre textural things with his guitar, and occasionally he'll tear into a riff or lead line, much in the vein of Djam Karet's heavier output. Karn is smoother than ever on the fretless and his workings with/against Bozzio's is the heart of Polytown. Nothing is perfect, however, and there are some easy targets for criticism here as well: 1. Most of the album is stylistically similar, sounding too much the same. 2. Bozzio turns his snares off for almost the whole album, and the resulting tom-tom-fest grows tiresome in large chunks. 3. The whole ought to be greater than the sum of the pieces in a band, but in a few places here it simply sounds like each guy is doing his thing without playing off of the other two enough. But the bottom line is that Polytown is the work of three very talented instrumentalists and there are some remarkable performances within. Strongly recommended.
by Peter Thelen, 1994-10-01:I always tend to be a little suspicious when any release is accompanied with as much hype and hoopla as this one was. It better well measure up to all the chatter and attention it gets. Certainly this one has all the elements to make it happen: Torn's unique guitar sound filtered through tape loops and delays made his album Cloud About Mercury a timeless classic. Bozzio's technique, control and sheer brilliance have amazed many going way back to his days with Zappa's Zoot Allures lineup, and through the many projects and bands he's played with since; a drummer's drummer if there ever was one. Karn's pulsating fretless bass work is widely respected, in the same league with Percy Jones or Bernard Paganotti. So what happens when you put these three elements together? What we have in Polytown is a mixture of these three elements, quite an impressive one. Bozzio sets the tone with his heavy use of toms and his avoidance of the snare, giving the project a mildly ethnic feel. Combined with Karn, the rhythms and counter-rhythms the two cook up are at times simply amazing. Torn is Torn, as he is and always was — in fact throughout most of the album's ten tracks, Polytown could be thought of as a David Torn album with a monster rhythm section. Herein lies it's only weakness — for three musicians of this stature, one might hope that the end result might be somehting greater than merely the sum of the parts. It is not. The three have simply brought the best of their respective solo/session careers together, but little beyond that. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of gems here, like "This Is the Abduction Scene," where all three cut loose with everything they've got, "Warrior Horsemen..." where Bozzio demonstrates his chops, and "Open Letter" and "Snail Hair Dune" with their distinctive ethnic overtones. Fans of Torn's solo work, Djam Karet, Material, and Steve Tibbetts should enjoy this one a lot. Recommended.
by Mike Borella, 1994-10-01:I've have to admit to seeing this trio live before listening to their disc. And while the recording does not quite capture the intensity and power of the show, it doesn't fall short either. Torn, Karn and Bozzio, three experienced studio/road musicians, have approached their new instrumental project with a vitality that is missing from many 'supergroups.' There is no hardened cynicism nor marketing ploys to be heard. Polytown's escence is polyphony; Torn's atmospheric, delay-processed guitars, both harsh and soothing, Karn's wandering, low-end growls and soft underpinnings (somewhat reminiscent of Magma's Yannick Top), and Bozzio's melodically eclectic, non-western styled percussion combine to emphasize the band as a unit rather than any single member. While Bozzio's drum performance is busy and continuously surprising, his virtuoso efforts do not interfere with the more subtle approaches of Torn and Karn. Fans of Torn's Best Laid Plans and Cloud About Mercury will find Polytown fitting comfortably next to those two on the shelf. Falling in the nether regions between rock, jazz, ethnic fusion and space music, Polytown is a forward-looking release that not only promises; it delivers. They stretch their abilities as well as musical genres with an ever-changing, complex amalgam. Highly recommended.
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