David Torn ‘Only Shy’ (ECM) 3/5

david-tornGuitarist and producer David Torn has plotted his own highly distinctive music path and on this new offering veers between minimalist guitar and exploratory sound effects with the thought provoking title literary in tone and reflective of the album as whole. At best, it is mood-inducing music, as on the opener, ‘At least there was nothing’, but some of the rock inspired sound effects can pass for a certain degree of self-indulgence in this writer’s ears. Whether one agrees with the latter sentiment, or judges Torn to be a creative genius is a matter of conjecture. However, there is no doubting the musician’s sincerity and on the folk-jazz of ”Spoke with folks’ there are echoes of Brill Frisell and, likewise, Torn conjurs up the vastness of the prairies here and this writer much prefers this blues-inflected edge to the guitarist’s soloing. Eerie layered textures are invented on the intimate guitar piece, ‘OK Shorty’, which would be ideally placed on a film soundtrack, surely a medium where Torn’s work would be best appreciated. On the other hand, some of the rock-inflected on ‘I could almost see the room’, are best left aside and detract from the lyrical numbers. Of the latter, ‘Only sky’, stands out as a beautifully constructed piece in a minimalist setting, as does the minimalist strumming of ‘Reaching, barely, sparely fraught’, and why Torn does not concentrate more of his efforts on this style is something of a mystery. A worthy effort, but some of the pieces on occasion do drag on a little too long and would be better served in truncated format.

Tim Stenhouse