Speed of Dark – Emiliana Torrini
39:14 min • Rough Trade • September 9, 2013
Nick Smith reviews
It’s been five years since Emiliana Torrini released her acclaimed Me and Armini. For her fourth international release, Torrini has embarked on a more experimental and a rather personal feel for Tookah.
Opening with the title track, the word ‘Tookah’ alludes to a blissful, ethereal feeling, a safe-word to pull you back from the emotional turmoil we can get drawn into. The song is underpinned by gorgeous, folktronic beats and a new beguiling instrument named the “swarmatron” adding an entrancing, buzzing drone to the song. This is not however indicative of the album’s rather obscure and acoustic backdrop.
‘Caterpillar’ is pure-spun electronic silk and has intrinsic elements of the wonderful Nerina Pallot. Torrini’s voice is abundantly rich and harmonious against this fantastic acoustic dreamscape.
‘Autumn Sun’ is a beautiful, melancholy track and could speak of a duplicitous fan’s destructive agenda or it could be a metaphor for Torrini’s transformation as a woman. The ambivalence in the lyrics is delightfully subtle.
Now I see the beauty, I failed to see when she was me,
Life undressed me of her, strap by strap, like a silk dress, she fell to my feet.
She brought me flowers, said she liked my work,
I thought she couldn’t do us any harm, he never liked that kind of charm –
‘Animal Games’ will resonate with those who have been embroiled in dramatic and jealous relationships, and the way Torrini likens these mind games to animals is pure genius set against the slight military pacing of the track.
You’re scaring off the doe,
Killing off the sparrow,
Howling like a wolf,
Poisoning the arrow –
The lead single, ‘Speed Of Dark’ is an epic pop crossover and is pure audio mescaline. It’s easy to become enchanted with its ’80s synth feel and the track harks back to the days of Ladytron with a smattering of Siouxsie Sioux.
The context of the album lies rather more in an acoustic sound and as such the album may appear incoherent, but the material does not suffer. There are some beautifully personal touches, like ‘Elisabet’, a sweeping ode to a formidable aunt and “Home” may pitch Torrini on folk-lite territory that is a little too Jack Johnson, but is thankfully lifted by the slick, shuffling melody.
You’re in my heart,
Now I never walk the ice alone –
‘Blood Red’ turns proceedings rather dark and striking. The exquisitely sinister and haunting air of the track could well pay homage to the Eliza Day that Nick Cave speaks of in ‘Where The Wild Roses Grow’.
The album’s closer ‘When Fever Breaks’ is a daring soundscape that reinvents the feel of this album beginning with belligerent guitar riffs and breathy interludes, weaving into introspective ambient territory with shades of Zero 7.
Tookah is an impressive return for Torrini and has a timely, autumnal feel. Let the leaves fall as this brilliant record draws you in on the darker evenings.