One Track Mind: David Torn, "Structural Functions Of Prezens" (2007)

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by Pico

Since new David Torn releases don’t come around that often–the last one came out in 1998–Christmas arrived last month to lovers of electric improvised music, such as myself. Mark Seleski’s review of Prezens whetted my appetite further as he described the album’s music as “the combination of ambient approach and seemingly unstructured music.” Other musicians pay lip service to thinking outside the box; Torn is not even anywhere near that damned box.

The sounds he coaxes out of his guitar aim for something deeper than just acumen; at times he’s drilling into the frontal lobes while at other times, he’s dwelling in your subconscious. Torn once named an album Tripping Over God; this one could have easily been titled “Fripping” Over God.

The personnel lineup is a treat for Tim Berne fans (again, such as myself), as it includes Berne on sax along with Craig Taborn on keys and Tom Rainey on drums; in whack jazz shorthand, that’s Hard Cell plus Torn. It’s the exact right crew to have on board when experimental music is on the menu.

The semi-title track “Structural Functions Of Prezens” is a perfect example of what Mark is talking about; the first four plus minutes features Tim Berne playing his tenor sax soft and straight over Craig Taborn’s (taking a big s.w.a.g., here) heart pulse sound and Torn’s occasional acoustic guitar. But suddenly in the middle of this dream sequence soundtrack Tom Rainey comes crashing in a frenetic cymbal ‘n’ snare explosion.

The rest of the band doesn’t wake up right away, but Berne eventually does briefly play more in his character as an outside player. After about three minutes, Rainey slows down and ambient take on more urgency while staying “ambient.”

Somewhere in all this, Torn is providing samples as well as odd sounds out of his guitar, but he’s far more interested in glueing the whole thing together than playing the frontman. Like a mad scientist. A mad genius scientist.

Listen: David Torn “Structural Functions Of Prezens”

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron

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