Mrs. Crotchety has gone on her annual trip to her health spa. Her man is going to visit Polytown. She has a four-hour drive; my journey will last only a few seconds courtesy of the Spotify app. The lady’s destination is a genteel seaside resort in the picturesque county of Devon; it is not as pretty where I am going in cyberspace, but the place does have a charm of its own.
Polytown is a collaboration between David Torn, Mick Karn and Terry Bozzio. Torn is a guitarist, composer and producer with a string of film scores to his name. Karn’s fretless bass playing gave Japan their distinctive sound. And Bozzio is best known as Frank Zappa’s drummer in the late seventies.
David Torn’s style is variously described as electronica, world, jazz-rock and minimalist, but for me the best description is his own “textural guitarist”. There’s considerable overlap with Stephan Thelen’s minimal groove, but Torn adds a sharper edge. You can play Polytown as background sounds but, if you give it a little attention, the astringent tones will sprinkle hot spice into the sound feed. For some, that adds to the pleasure, for others it detracts.
This album has all the attributes of a David Torn solo release, but the contributions of Mick Karn and Terry Bozzio add their own characteristic elements. There’s lyrical bass playing and haunting bass clarinet from Karn, while Bozzio pummels the drum skins and clanks the untuned percussion with gusto. The end result is certainly intriguing but, perhaps, a little incohesive. Polytown is an interesting place, but it feels as if we have to go round the houses to get there.