Exposé Online banner

David Torn / Mick Karn / Terry Bozzio — Polytown
(CMP Records CD 1006, 1994, CD)

by Mike Borella, 1994-10-01:

Polytown Cover art 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.

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 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.

Filed under: New releases , Issue 5 , 1994 releases

Related artist(s): Terry Bozzio, David Torn, Mick Karn

More info

Latest news

2019-11-07
Glenn Smith RIP – Glenn Smith, founder, mandolinist, and primary composer of the DeLand, Florida based prog / fusion band Magnatar, passed away on October 18th 2019 at the age of 68, after a brief illness.  » Read more

2019-11-04
Dino Brassea RIP – Word reaches us of the passing of Dino Brassea, who sang and played flute in Cast for many years. By our count, Brassea appeared on 11 Cast albums between 1994 and 2002. He also released music as a solo artist. » Read more

2019-10-06
Ginger Baker RIP – Legendary English drummer Ginger Baker has died at the age of 80. After coming to fame with Cream in the 60s alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, he became one of the most recognized and influential drummers of the rock era. On September 25, his family announced that he was critically ill, and on October 6 his death was confirmed. » Read more

2019-08-20
Alex's Hand Seeks Spa Treatment – American / European band Alex's Hand has a new album in the works called Hungarian Spa, which looks to be their biggest and best yet, featuring a large roster of guest musicians. They're seeking funding to take the project on the road, and are looking for help from the crowd of wisdom. » Read more

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Saviour Machine - Legend Part 1 – I first glimpsed a newsletter by this band at Progfest 95 (or was it '96?), and to be honest I thought it was some form of hate group and didn't give it another glance. The singer was bald,...  (1999) » Read more

Radiohead - Kid A – OK Computer showed a rock band reaching beyond the conventions of commercial music, yet somehow managing to remain commercial, selling millions of albums and impressing a lot of non-mainstream...  (2001) » Read more

Saddar Bazaar - The Conference of the Birds – An instrumental four-piece from the UK, Saddar Bazaar sports a strong ethnic flavor, featuring a variety of non-western instruments such as sitar, kubing, dholak, agoual, and tablas, as well as the...  (1996) » Read more

Musicalia - Magicorò – Once in a while comes a disc that is surprising by its nature. Magicorò is issued on the Italian Kaliphonia progressive label, but it is a gripping work of chamber music and singing, much...  (1995) » Read more

Anthony Phillips - Dragonfly Dreams & The Meadows of Englewood – The most artistically inclined and prolific of all Genesis members past or present is (how ironic) also the least popular. Nevertheless Phillips has neither given up nor given in, as these two recent...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues