Torn/Berne/Smith: Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM 2613)

Sun Of Goldfinger

Sun Of Goldfinger

David Torn electric guitar, live-looping, electronics
Tim Berne alto saxophone
Ches Smith drums, electronics, tanbou
Craig Taborn electronics, piano
Scorchio Quartet
Amy Kimball violin
Rachel Golub violin
Martha Mooke viola
Leah Coloff cello
Mike Baggetta guitar
Ryan Ferreira guitar
Recorded September 2015 and August 2018 at The Bunker, Brooklyn Recording, EMPAC & Isokon Studios
Engineer: Daniel James Goodwin
Assistants: Adam Tilzer and Nolas Thies
Mixing: David Torn
Produced by David Torn
Release date: March 1, 2019

The trio featured on Sun Of Goldfinger coalesced in 2010, by which time guitarist David Torn and saxophonist Tim Berne had shared many years of collaborative experience between them, but to whom percussionist Ches Smith was a name as fresh as his talent. Over the next seven years, they opened themselves to the evolutionary potential of their collective body, to the point where they began laying down the tracks that would one day yield this self-titled debut.

The album opens and closes with two free improvisations, although not in the traditional sense of spontaneous creation. Rather, they are a product of mixing longer freak-outs into coherent mosaics. The result of what Torn calls this “gigantic reveal” is a sound-world bent on tattooing itself with permanence even as it dissolves in its own acid.

A hyperaware guitar licks the sky with flame in “Eye Meddle,” its electronic chemtrails a blissful grid of emotional circumstance. Smith’s own digital ephemera likewise render spaces larger than one might expect from a mere trio, as Berne cuts horizontally across their rising thermals of parthenogenesis. While Torn and Smith weave a sonic tapestry that is as much stratospheric as it is subterranean, Berne grafts on to dark matter of a highly different order, linking chains of notes in warped circularity. So committed is Berne to fighting a kneejerk fall into traction that he drops out of the matrix almost in protest when Smith drops his drum-and-bass groove. Berne struggles against its draw, adding fuel to the fire as Torn’s sun burns itself into a lightless dwarf of its former glory.

“Soften The Blow” opens more bloodshot eyes, itching along the edges of consciousness. This a deeper and darker pit of despair that nevertheless touches its reflection with childlike curiosity and opens the window to possibilities never before entertained. That said, one might draw filament influences to early Painkiller (saxophonist John Zorn’s power trio with bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Mick Harris), the only outfit I would dare to draw comparison. For while their sound and imagery occupy spaces of their own, there’s a kindred spirit of creation going on here that speaks its own will to power.

(Photo credit: Robert Lewis)

The album’s molten core is “Spartan, Before It Hit,” a piece conceived and constructed by Torn, who adds a string quartet, two guitarists (Mike Baggetta and Ryan Ferreira), and pianist Craig Taborn to the mix. What begins in arco bliss spills out across an arid plane of ancient caravan beats. Torn’s guitar has its day, shining brighter than our nearest star as if to bleach out the universe. The axis tilts, one dramatic degree at a time, until polarities are reversed on their way toward returning to neutral. It’s a process that’s both mournful and ecstatic: a sense of corporeal lust transforming into light.

3 thoughts on “Torn/Berne/Smith: Sun Of Goldfinger (ECM 2613)

  1. I ordered this a week ago and am eager to hear it. I’ve been a fan of David Torn since his Cloud About Mercury album. But I’ve felt real indifferent to Tim Berne’s Snakeoil projects. It will be interesting to hear how these two mesh on this project as the “polarities are reversed to neutral”.

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