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

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santana, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more

2020-05-06
Florian Schneider RIP – Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the pioneering electronic group Kraftwerk, has died at the age of 73. Co-founder Ralf Hütter announced that his bandmate had passed away from cancer after a brief illness. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Moraine - Manifest Density – Moraine is a new Seattle-based five-piece led by guitarist Dennis Rea (please refer to our feature on Mr. Rea in issue 23 for more background), joined by a rhythm section of bass and drums, plus a...  (2010) » Read more

Débile Menthol - Emile à la Campagne – This two-disc set collects both of Swiss band Debile Menthol's early-80s studio LPs (1981's Emile au Jardin Patrologique and Battre Campagne from '84) into a single package, adding a...  (1995) » Read more

Motorpsycho - Little Lucid Moments – This Norwegian trio has been releasing music for nearly two decades now. This writer was a relative latecomer to their work, first introduced via their Phanerothyme and Let Them Eat Cake albums...  (2008) » Read more

Saga - Generation 13 – There's so many good things about this album that I don't know where to begin. It marks a giant step forward for Saga – a 25-track, 69-minute concept album that includes some of the best...  (1995) » Read more

Exclusive Raja - Insubmersible – Insubmersible is Exclusive Raja's second album and is a step onward from their debut, Off the Map, of three years ago. This eclectic band shows musical influences of such disparate artists as King...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues