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David Torn

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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David Torn Cloud About Mercury album cover
4.40 | 44 ratings | 4 reviews | 48% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1987

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Suyafhu Skin... Snapping the Hollow Reed (8:15)
2. The Mercury Grid (6:32)
3. 3 Minutes of Pure Entertainment (7:05)
4. Previous Man (7:52)
- The Network of Sparks :
5. I - The Delicate Code (4:50)
6. II - Egg Learns to Walk... Suyafhu Seal (10:22)

Total Time 44:56

Line-up / Musicians

- David Torn / electric & acoustic guitars

- Mark Isham / trumpet, piccolo trumpet, flugelhorn, synthesizer (2)
- Tony Levin / Chapman Stick, synth bass
- Bill Bruford / Simmons & synth drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Dieter Rehm

LP ECM Records ‎- ECM 1322 (1987, Germany)

CD ECM Records ‎- ECM 1322 (1987, Germany)

Thanks to snobb for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DAVID TORN Cloud About Mercury ratings distribution

(44 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(48%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(34%)
Good, but non-essential (11%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

DAVID TORN Cloud About Mercury reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Very rare album from almost forgotten great experimentalist David Torn. Searching on his own sound in the field of experimental guitar music, David Torn tested many electronic devices and techniques. But it is a case, when deep experimentation gave excellent musical result.

Just imagine King Crimson's rhythm section (Tony Levin + Bill Bruford), David Torn on guitar ( he has very own sound, but nearest example is Robert Fripp) and excellent jazz trumpetist Mark Isham as one band. That is it, this album.

Very first album sounds are guitar soundscapes, similar to Fripp's. But very soon the music goes to the fields of world-avant-fusion (where Torn plays strings in a manner of French- Vietnamese guitar player Nguyen Le).

Step by step trumpet takes his leading role, and doesn't surrender till very end of the album. Fripp-like guitar and bass stick build very multi textured background for trumpet improvisational sound it.

But guitar will have its moments many times. Sometimes duelling with trumpet, or going over it , it builds great aerial sound constructions ( elegantly mixed by EMC characteristic sound mixing). Rhythm structures are complex, influenced by African and Caribbean drumming.

All the album sounds as one excellent piece of music. Possibly, the best fusion album coming from eighties!

Very recommended for any jazz rock fusion fan. Masterpiece!

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars David Torn is a highly thought of experimental guitarist from the USA. The fact Tony Levin, Bill Bruford and Mark Isham are his band on this album should tell you how respected he is in the music industry.This album is fairly unique sounding to my ears anyway. Experimental and atmospheric Jazz with a World-Music vibe is what we get. I did think of Terje Rypdal on a few occassions with David's guitar work. He's different as he often creates soundscapes with his guitar instead of soloing.

"Suyafhu Skin...Snapping The Hollow Reed" opens with lots of spacey atmosphere. The acoustic guitar is different sounding that's for sure,it has that World flavour to it. Piccolo helps out too. The electric guitar 3 1/2 minutes in sounds amazing. Back to the previous soundscape a minute later. Electric guitar is back. Drums are prominant after 7 minutes. "The Mercury Grid" opens with horns followed by percussion before a minute. It gets pretty intense before 5 minutes.

"3 Minutes Of Pure Entertainment" features Bruford on the synth-drums. We also get horns and atmosphere. Guitar after 2 1/2 minutes. Normal drums 4 1/2 minutes in then back to the synth-drums. "Previous Man" has a good beat with horns and keys. Guitar after 3 minutes. Trumpet blasts 6 1/2 minutes in as drums pound. "The Delicate Code" is catchy to start. It settles before 2 minutes. The guitar comes in reminding me of Rypdal. "Egg Learns To Walk!...Suyafhu Seal" opens with percussion and horns as the guitar starts to solo. Nice. It settles some after 2 minutes. The horn replaces the guitar. Great sound ! Guitar is back 4 1/2 minutes in. It then calms right down a minute later. Sounds proceed to come and go. Lots of atmosphere. It ends just like the album began.

This is a very interesting album to listen to.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This was a surprising album from David Torn. Surprising because around that time, in the mid- eighties, it seemed like ECM record was pushing all of their jazz guitarists to sound like then golden boy Pat Metheny. Well here, Torn does play guitar synth at times, but with King Crimson's rhythm section of Bill Bruford and Tony Levin, the music has much more bite than any of those Metheny vehicles.

The album starts with Suyafhu Skin... / Snapping The Hollow Reed with Bruford playing tuned synth pads in a way similar to the way he used them in his Earthworks band (which debuted the same year as this album). The rhythms build up to the point where he switches to tuned real drums, and then into a full drum kit as the song builds. Levin is his usual cool, funky self playing mostly stick while Torn and Mark Isham play solos over the top. And that's just the first song.

It should suffice to say that this is an excellent find for any eighties King Crimson fan, or avant-fusion enthusiast.

4.5 stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Experimental guitarist David Torn here makes his existence known to me--and with company like Tony Levin, Bill Bruford, and Mark Isham, how could he possibly be denied?

1. "Suyafhu Skin... Snapping the Hollow Reed" (8:15) a song that opens with David's fretless guitar chords but then turns to a kind of Japanese/Chinese koto instrument with "distant" Mark Isham trumpet notes (very much in line with the sounds we've come to know and love from him on his own solo albums and soundtracks). David comes unnannounced at the 3:40 mark, renting a tear in the fabric of the universe with his chainsaw sword. In the background are flugelhorns and Bill Bruford's Simmons-generated minimalist percussion weave. I'm sure Tony Levin's been in there somewhere with is synth bass or ChapmanStick, but I never clearly detected his presence until the sixth minute. Bruford switches into a different set of programs for his drums (as well as looping some of his previous ones) while Torn slashes and burns his way through the skies. Amazing the kind of sound and tapestries that musicians can make! (18/20)

2. "The Mercury Grid" (6:32) Bill Bruford is in full Simmons mode though his cymbal play through the first minute is nice. Tony Levin's ChapmanStick is quite prominent but it's Mark Isham's trumpet that is the lead in the first four minutes. Then David takes over and takes down the music, leading the crew into mayhem and chaos. Wow! I was not ready for that! (9/10)

3. "3 Minutes of Pure Entertainment" (7:05) funny title for a seven-minute song! Isham's muted and effected trumpets give this an old-world kind of feel while Torn's sustained and bent chords play over Bruford and Levin's KingCrimsonian weave. David's guitar play is like someone put Adrian Belew on acid! Mark backs off for a while to give the listener full attention to David Torn's work, but then he comes back in the fourth minute. The further the music goes on (and the more "normal" the rhythm section begins to groove) the more the Adrian Belew comparisons seem totally appropriate. (14/15)

4. "Previous Man" (7:52) as much as I love acoustic instruments, I am so thankful for electricity for the fact that it gave me the musics of artists like these four (trumpeter Jon Hassell also comes to mind) to enrich my life. As much as this is a David Torn song--and he is fantastic on this--Tony and Bill really elevate this, but it feels like Mark is deserving of top billing: his trumpet play is so melodic and real. (14/15)

- The Network of Sparks : 5. "I - The Delicate Code" (4:50) lots of looping on this one; in fact, it feels like a solo piece by the guitarist on his own. (8.75/10)

6. "II - Egg Learns to Walk... Suyafhu Seal" (10:22) The first half of this song has the feeling as if four classically-trained jazz musicians walked into a room in which only electronically-enhanced instruments were available for them to play. I don't know the order in which the album's songs were created and recorded, but this song feels like the one in which all instrumentalists have not only clicked into sync with one another but also the first song in which all instrumentalists feel loose and relaxed enough to really let go and be themselves--while still feeling very tightly synchronized with each other. I can't think of a David Torn song in which he is so attuned., supportive of his band mates--to the degree that his interplay of chordal accents in the third and fourth minutes are astonishing! The second half sees the song degrade into a flotilla of outer space discombobulation, but that's all right: at least we had that amazing first half! Also, it's fun to see & hear how much of David Torn's sound and technical approach has stayed the same since 1987! (I'm referring to his work with Swiss Math Rockers, Sonar.) (18/20)

Total Time 44:56

It's really so difficult assigning ratings to any of this music because it is so foreign to anything the world has ever heard before. Even now, 35 years later, there so little music that I've ever heard to compare this to. At the same time I am so grateful for the mind-expanding magic these four artists have contributed to my life!

A-/five stars; a minor-masterpiece of mind-blowing music that could be called "future jazz"--even today!

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