Recording information: Cell Labs, NY (02/2014); EMPAC Concert Hall, Troy, NY (02/2014).
Photographers: David Torn ; Tim Berne.
David Torn is a hardcore looper. He's been creating loops in his music since well before most people ever heard of the term (20+ years). Not only does he do it on studio recordings, he does it in live situations, looping not just himself but other bandmembers! Given that, it's a bit surprising that Only Sky is his first truly solo recording: just Torn, guitar, and loops (plus a bit of oud on one track). Although there's a hovering ambience to all these pieces, this isn't new agey ambience: the pieces are sometimes ominous or uneasy with Torn producing guitar-like tones and very un-guitar-like tones and sometimes manipulating the loops in a not-so-subtle way. He alternates between song-oriented pieces like "Spoke with Folks," which approaches Frisell-y Americana, and more abstract ones like "Was a Cave, There...," with sounds like balloon squeals and ray guns giving way to some serious loop manipulation. Although these pieces were essentially recorded live with no overdubs, Torn did some extensive post-production on them at his studio so it doesn't have that dry, "live with no overdubs" sound. Only Sky isn't an album that will appeal to everyone, but those interested in the outer limits of guitar and looping should check this one out. ~ Sean Westergaard