BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Like so many distinctively skilled practitioners, David Torn plays on too many sessions and soundtracks to make solo records with any regularity. So it’s a big deal when he finally releases something under his own name – for that alone Only Sky (his first album under his own name in eight years) deserves a huzzah! This is a true solo album – no other musicians were responsible for the sounds herein. As fans who’ve digested Torn’s 90s LPs Tripping Over God and What Means Solid, Traveller? know, that means plenty of ambient atmospherics, oddball riffs and sound effects and the occasional face-melting solo, and that’s certainly the case here.
With fewer overdubs than on projects past, Torn mostly avoids obvious rock or jazz moves to concentrate on finding melody between the cracks. The overtly jazzy “A Goddamned Specific Unbalance” and the twangy Western title track explore conventional sonics, or at least noise regular folk may have heard. That’s not Torn’s MO for most of this record, however. “Spoke With Folks,” “Reaching Barely, Sparely Fraught” and the sprawling epic “Was a Cave, There…” don’t throw open the doors for easy access, but they do leave the curtains pulled so we can at least peep what Torn is up to here.
That may be the best way to experience Only Sky. Observe it through glass so you can witness Torn indulge his adventurous spirit without self-consciousness, like watching someone dancing naked and alone to their favorite song – self-indulgent and uncomfortable at first but ultimately edifying and mesmerizing.
DOWNLOAD: “Reaching Barely, Sparely Fraught,” “Was a Cave, There…,” “Only Sky”