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David Torn: Forever Sharp and Vivid

Music, according to some, is in its impressionistic phase. Sounds, textures and motifs–in everything from electronica to hip hop–have taken the place of words as the preferred mode of communication.

Guitarist David Torn is among this new language’s most eloquent speakers. The restless guitar texturalist pops up in two trio formats, with sax player David Castiglione and drummer Chris Massey on Forever Sharp and Vivid (Lolo, 014-2,59:44) and Gtr Oblq (Knitting Factory, KFR 233, 59:15) with fellow guitar deconstructionists Vernon Reid and Elliot Sharp.

True to its title, “Forever Sharp” retains its compositional focus, even as Sharp trots out a protean array of loops and soundscapes.

Washes of ocean inspired sound-humming bird-like legato lines-all are presented with an attention to thematic development that is hard to come by in this noodling era. On Paul Motian’s “The Hoax” Torn’s processed freakout suggests a cybernetic version of Sonny Sharrock, riding point over Massey’s cascading drum rolls, and goading Castiglione’s free melodic exploration. Torn is just as inventive on acoustic guitar – waxing slide bluesy behind Castiglione on “Godzilla and Rodan”, and adopting an Eastern tinge on the tabla- flavored “Breath.”

Gtr Oblq (Guitar Oblique) is more like an avant-guitar blowing session. Recorded live at the Knitting Factory, this session features a trio of forward thinkers with their brains set on “shuffle program”.

Using a variety of electronic sound generators, samplers and sequencers (spiced with irregular programs to keep everybody off balance), Torn, Reid and Sharp dive into each others cybernetic frays, from beat heavy workouts like Reid’s The Sentinel to Sharp’s mutant “Slightly East”.

Originally Published