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Album review: Emiliana Torrini “Tookah” (Folk Radio UK)

November 11, 2013

Emiliana Torrini "Tookah"Of her new record, Tookah, the Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini has said that it’s about “the exploration of sonics and visual landscaping” in order to find her own sound, and this is quite a perceptive overview. Listening back to her previous album, Me And Armini, there’s a definite progression and the “sound journey” which she’s been on has enabled her to produce a record which is filled with a low-key beauty.

Title track Tookah, a made up word which Emiliana describes as “the sudden thankfulness you feel where everything is gently perfect for a moment”, serves as both a good description of the overall feel of the album and a microcosm of its sound. A bubbling percussion track and slow, spacious guitars swathe Emiliana’s confident vocals on a blissed-out homage to her personal deity. Caterpillar opens with echoey synths before an arpeggiated guitar and a sparse bassline lay down the musical foundation for a laidback piece of minimalist electronica.

Autumn Sun is a lovely, acoustic guitar driven soundscape which perfectly encapsulates those few minutes on a late summer’s afternoon when the light turns gold and the shadows lengthen. Home has an irrepressible, almost bossa nova rhythm, over which Emiliana’s multitracked vocals swirl as synths appear and disappear before a misty middle eight drop, after which the song bursts briefly into life before a fading coda where the guitars sound like the sea washing gently against the shore.

Some unusual key changes by the guitars and synths create a downbeat, introspective atmosphere for Elisabet, while the electronic rhythms which power Animal Games call to mind some of Joni Mitchell’s more experimental work on The Hissing Of Summer Lawns while still retaining Emiliana’s uniquely hypnotic sound. Lead single Speed Of Dark is a darkly beautiful piece of electro-pop with a deceptively catchy vocal hook; listening to this sinuous, sensuous groove, you begin to understand how she came to co-write Slow for Kylie Minogue.

The brooding Blood Red grows slowly but surely into a vast, atmospheric soundscape with Emiliana’s vocals leading the way forward. Closing track When Fever Breaks is epic in many ways; the longest track on the album, it makes the most of its time to explore a range of sounds and tone colours with Emiliana herself perhaps taking the most chances with a largely wordless vocal performance. Curiously, there are parts which remind me of the 1970s German band Can; the insistent bass, endlessly changing percussion and fuzz guitar behind almost murmured vocals combine to create something which isn’t a million miles from some of the more far-out parts of Ege Bamyasi. It may not seem it, but this is high praise indeed from this reviewer, for whom Can is one of her favourite groups in the history of ever…

Lyrically, a recurrent theme on Tookah is that of change, of moving on, and this is reflected in the music; although on the first few hearings it seems to exist in its own world, repeated playings reveal an understanding of rhythm combined with a sense of restlessness which, together, give it a dynamic tension that holds your attention and calls you back for just one more listen.

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Originally posted at Folk Radio UK (11 November 2013)

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