David Torn: cloud about mercury (ECM 1322)

David Torn
cloud about mercury

David Torn guitars
Mark Isham trumpets, synthesizer
Tony Levin bass
Bill Bruford drums, percussion
Recorded March 1986 at Audio International, London
Engineer: Andy Jackson
Produced by Manfred Eicher

Guitarist David Torn defines jazz fusion, proving that the genre is more than add and stir. With cloud about mercury he made his most personal statement to date. The album sounds like many things: a sweep of Steve Tibbetts dimensions, a Jon Hassell think piece, a tree with many cultural branches, a spider’s web in sound. Torn roams freely throughout these territories, shouldering a vast load of thematic material. The opening wash of heaven that is “Suyafhu Skin…Snapping The Hollow Reed” condenses much of that material, letting fall a quiet storm of continental activity. Detuned guitars and a bubbling synthesizer part the way for Tony Levin’s grounded bass lines and trumpeter Mark Isham’s sustained flights, while drummer Bill Bruford chases after, somehow keeping pace. Next is “The Mercury Grid,” another engaging rhythm piece that boasts Isham in a Molværian mode. Torn flexes acrobatically here, swinging from every branch of this sonic corridor. The curiously titled “3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment” is a mid-tempo groove that again features soaring guitar. Torn’s fractal precision speckles “Previous Man,” which begins with two guitars before engaging drums and synth bass in staggered syncopations. The likeminded “Network Of Sparks: The Delicate Code” sets off an intriguing chain of electric events, all the more enigmatic for their brevity. Which brings us to “Network Of Sparks: Egg Learns To Walk…Suyafhu Seal,” a warm, gelatinous mosaic that slices the night into ribbons like light through a window blind, rendering empty space into a virtual stairway by curls of cigarette smoke.

cloud about mercury represents a pinnacle of Torn’s craft and is must-have for the adventurous.

2 thoughts on “David Torn: cloud about mercury (ECM 1322)

  1. This is another of the critical releases that eased my year of post-doc’ing in Seattle in 1983. I wore out the grooves on this album – the first cut is one of my favorite guitar driven pieces. One day, in a Durham NC guitar store, I got to try out a Steinberger (the unusually shaped, very speedy guitar that Torn favored at this time) – the guitar design certainly facilitated the type of guitar pyrotechnics that Torn excels at!

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