Monday, February 20, 2012

Tony Levin, David Torn & Alan White

Tony Levin (bass)
David Torn (guitar)
Alan White (drums)
Levin Torn White (Papa Bear Records; 2011)

To say this is a unbelievable monster lineup is an understatement. Torn, known for his mystical and cerebral soundscapes in both rock and jazz for over three decades teams up with King Crimson legendary bassist, Levin (the two previous worked together on Torn's Cloud About Mercury release) and another legend, Alan White of Yes--recording an adventurous and infectious self titled project. The musicians have played or performed with each other in various incarnations but Levin Torn White is the first as a trio. Three extraordinary musicians set loose in the studio to create a cavalcade of sonic structures that just might destroy your speakers.

At times this could resemble one of King Crimson's Projekcts from the late '90s early '00s. But unlike those experiments, this trio have set forth to rock and have fun doing it. "Ultra Mullet" has a telling feel of "Thela Hen Ginjeet"/Adrian Belew era Crimson but the trio twist this thought quickly with some high power and intense pulsations from Levin and frenetic yet beautiful passages from Torn. "White Noise" is White's opportunity to have some fun on the sticks with a number of staccato beats aided by warning signals of Torn's guitar. The pattern begins to warp towards the middle with Torn and Levin sounding like a psychedelic ambient car wreck. Exquisite stuff.

Ambience is brought to the fore on "Convergence" in which Torn is the main focus. His chords scale up and down gently and are surrounded by various sound effects. A ballad of sorts but set in a distant spacial reality. "Sleeping Horse" should be a part of a John Carpenter film. A slow moving number with heavy bass inflections and eerie guitar passages that might follow our hero down the dark corridor to the final battle scene.

"Porn Night Of The Centipedes" is the closest track to resemble an "accessible" song. A groove-filled bassline covered with comforting guitar work and crisp drums. Until that is, we hit the middle passage and the group spin into a more gargantuan rock tone with rolling drum lines from White and crunching notes from Torn. You've been fooled, there's nothing tame here folks, just noise. Levin Torn White never let's you down; even in the closing moments. "Lights Out" punches left and right with each member making impassioned closing arguments with vigor and intense colour.

The Crismon comparisons are unavoidable but for those who may be unfamiliar with each member's work, you may relate to it from the perspective of recent records by Scorch Trio or Elephant9. Or even one of Torn's earlier projects, Lonely Universe. A combination of improvisation, fierce technical musicianship and calculated direction allows Levin Torn White to span multiple sonic heights over the course of just under an hour. Levin Torn White is a lot of fun and ultimate rocks. A must have session for listeners of both rock, fusion and free jazz.

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