If it was groundbreaking guitarist David Torn's idea to combine the unique talents of these extraordinary musicians, it was an act of genius! I am surprised no one else reviewed this recording because it is quite simply a Masterpiece. This recording expands and transforms the way we think about music - indeed, it is impossible to find the genre best suited for this new and innovative sound. Such music is difficult to review, so forgive me if I "ramble" on a bit!
If you have never heard any of David Torn's music, he is very much into experimentation and this album continues with that trend. His style of guitar playing is unique, in that he seems adept at creating the most atmospheric sounds. The actual tone of his guitar is also distinctive - containing that warm and earthy tone, I would normally associate with Allan Holdsworth's legato sound. Yet, there is far more to Torn than these qualities alone - these are the trademarks of a consummate genius composer, who always provides the listener with adventurous and very "different" music.
While his earlier works are more ethereal and ambient - this album does have a much harder edge, but still keeping that surreal, and sometimes disturbing atmosphere Torn is renowned for within this genre. His solos are wonderfully crafted and full of emotion - demonstrating yet again his ability to say so much simply using that unique guitar tone, in concert with playing exactly the "right notes". (As well as guitar, Torn also plays some keyboards and harmonica). The inclusion of Terry Bozzio (ex "Zappa") and Mick Karn (ex "Japan") in this particular recording is a masterstroke - indeed, they compliment Torn's surreal atmospherics perfectly by adding their own distinctive input.
I heard this album when first released and with the first notes of the opening track, "Honey Sweating", I was captivated. If you are unfamiliar with the weird and wonderful style of Terry Bozzio's drumming his playing on/with "Polytown" displays his trademark sound and inspiring approach to rhythm and drumming. His earlier work with the legendary, Frank Zappa, obviously played a major role in shaping Bozzio's playing, as he ventures into new and intriguing areas of exploration. Bozzio's highly creative and precise rhythms lock in so well with Mick Karn's inventive and virtuosic bass work, providing Torn with a solid rhythm section for his musical excursions. "Red Sleep" is a perfect example of a Class rhythm section at work. Karn's bass playing is just awesome.
"Exploration" is the key point in this music - with each musician given a free reign to experiment. All three musicians interact beautifully and the soaring fretless bass sound provided by Mick Karn remains a focal point throughout the album. Listen out for his excellent bass work on "Res Majuko". His smooth tone contrasts, yet blends wonderfully with the harsh, and sometimes "industrial" sounding drumming - while Torn creates a somewhat dark yet mesmerising atmosphere using his trademark guitar tones and stunning effects. Karn also plays some bass clarinet briefly, adding to the overall strangeness of this music.
This is a "classic recording", and one that will surprise and delight, whatever your taste in music. If you were looking for something "different", then I would recommend "Polytown" as being the album to purchase. The musicianship is exemplary and the compositions are varied - covering a wide spectrum of musical influences - especially those with a Mid-Eastern feel - most noticeable in "Snail Hair Dune". The "surrealism" so obvious within the actual music, continues onto the CD artwork as well - suggesting that "Polytown" is an actual place (as well as the band's name). This enhances the Artistic imagery and presentation - thus, providing us with a complete conceptual package.
I should also add that if you are a drummer, then it is worth buying for the strength of Bozzio's playing alone. It is not all "drums" though - Torn and Karn fans are also in for a treat - it is a "group effort" after all and a brilliant one at that! There is a strong "chemistry" between these exceptional virtuoso musicians, which gives the album its strength. This is certainly the David Torn album I tend to listen to most often. I find it has a strong hypnotic affect. A high-end hi-fi or a good set of headphones are necessary to get the best from this astonishing album.
To conclude - if you are new to experimental music and a little reluctant to "step outside the box", I would class "Polytown" as being a great introduction to the music of David Torn et al. The drumming acts as rhythmic glue, and gives this recording a more accessible feel. I only wish I were present during the recording of this masterpiece because I feel there must have been an air of "magic" in the studio. I would love to hear more music by this amazing group - "Polytown". This is one of those rare albums, which send shivers of delight down the spine. Without doubt, this is a contemporary Masterpiece without compare - a great band and a stunning album.