dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Sprinter. Torres

Torres may stem from the U.S., she fits in nicely with Courtney Barnett. She has the same directness in music and performance. She balances on the brink of punk rock and delicateness. A split in approach as decisive as the split of the cover photo of Sprinter. The normal, vs. the outer spaceness, strangeness, colourfulness, you name it, it all may well be in there. There is one major difference, Ms. Barnett's lyrics are decidedly more upbeat.

Torres sounds southern European, Spain to be more exact. Torres' name at birth is MacKenzie Scott, born in the south, of the U.S. of A. She debuted two years ago with the album 'Torres'. Sprinter is her sophomore effort.

Torres' voice is lower than average for a woman and she's not afraid of using her voice at full volume. Without any abuse of voice like Courtney Love used(?) to show her anger. Torres puts the emotion more into the explosion of the band or in the suspense of the more empty songs. The latter songs come as some sort of a surprise to who is exposed to Torres for the first time and hears 'Stange Hellos' and 'New Skins' as their first exposure. It is here that the cover is so symbolic for what is on offer on Sprinter. Somebody else may call it confusion though, which does have some merit.

'Strange Hellos' enters extremely small, with a very spiteful personal message to a Heather it seems. After that the band kicks in. The drums pound away mercilessly. (Perhaps making up for not being present later in the album?) The angry voice and lyrics are echoed by the band in a perfect way. 'Strange Hellos' is a brilliant opening song and I can imagine every show starting it and for good measure end it as well. Why not? If U2 can start and end a show with its best song ever, 'Vertigo', whay can't Torres do the same trick?

'New Skin' is more quiet, but still a storm compared to what is waiting for us later on. In this song the grandmother of punk comes to mind: Patti Smith. The way Scott sings echoes the way Smith sings. Just as unsteady in the lower ranges, seemingly running out of breath, adding to the dramatic effect of 'New Skin'. In the second half of the song the band is unleashed and especially the lead guitarist, who is allowed to put on a horrible effect or two, underscoring the mood.

The tempo totally disappears in 'Son, You Are No Island'. A guitar, electronic sounds and the double tracked and treated voice of MacKenzie Scott. A 2015 version of Jefferson Airplane's 'Spare Chaynge': "No man is an island". Both songs are totally experimental and have the same main message. Lyrically Torres is much stronger though. Her music in general presents a mix of psychedelia, singer-songwriter and pure old (punk)rock. She allows herself to explore all corners of these types of music and blends them where a song needs something different.

If there is a hit single on Sprinter it's 'A Proper Polish Welcome'. The song title doesn't really help though. Torres reaches a level of beauty that is amazing and comes close to some of the songs of Morgan Mecaskey on her debut EP 'Righteous Kind'. Especially the title song. Both lady singers have a few things in common. A great voice and a level of seriousness in their music which combines into some fantastic songs that are irresistible and beg listening. 'A Proper Polish Welcome' has an intriguing melody and interesting twists in the song. Torres reaches a very mature level of making music here.

To compensate the guitar and drums are thrown back in in the title song. At the same time Torres dares to not do the obvious. The first chorus is totally quiet, displacing, disorienting sounds. Screeching guitar leads adorn one of the verses. Torres plays with the mood in and between her songs and with the mood of the listener. 'Sprinter' is another great song. Some 'Heroes' Robert Fripp like guitar playing. Everything is possible here and why not?  It makes 'Sprinter' the better. This makes me think of Angel Olsen also, but she is much more one dimensional compared to what Torres offers on this album.

If Torres has a voice of her own already, it is in the way she's able to swing moods around. In between the changes there is still a world for her to win, but showing influences is not a bad thing. As long as the result is either something copied extremely good or the artist comes up with something of him/herself. Torres does both, tends most to the latter option and because of that feat is on her way to succeed as an artist. As such I can say that Sprinter is a most intriguing album with so many secrets to discover that it is an album to come back to regularly.

'The Harshest Light' is another ballad turned into rocker. It all ends with a very personal song called 'The Exchange'. Nearly a cappella and some birds in the background. Added or recorded? A nice question. Who knows we might get an answer to this review?

So isn't there any critique? Yes, there is. Perhaps the musical mood is a bit to diverse for some. Either too loud or too quite. The other one is more personal as I'm personally fine with the diversity in sound on Sprinter. Torres is not able to keep me on the edge of my chair for the whole album. That is why Sprinter isn't a perfect album in my view. But hey, this is only her second album. There ought to be room for improvement!

Sprinter is an album by an artist that is extremely promising. In that very much like Courtney Barnett and hopefully Morgan Mecaskey. Any one who likes what Torres is doing, should start typing that name into his or her search engine straight away.


You can listen to 'Sprinter' here:


or buy Sprinter at Bolcom

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