Tuesday, July 3, 2018

CD Odyssey Disc 1154: Torres

On with the Odyssey!

Disc 1154 is… Three Futures
Artist: Torres

Year of Release: 2017

What’s up with the Cover? Torres sits splay-legged on a couch in some house the 1950s forgot. In the mirror you can see what has so thoroughly caught her attention, as a sexy woman stretches, wearing nothing but pantyhose.

I expect that last sentence will earn me some random Google searches.

How I Came To Know It: I discovered Torres through her 2015 album “Sprinter”. An early sampling of “Three Futures” went well so I took the plunge.

How It Stacks Up:  I have two Torres albums and they are both great, but only one can be #1. With this harsh reality, I must place “Three Futures” in first place, but it is a photo finish. Both albums are equally great.

Ratings:  4 stars

When I first heard Mackenzie Scott (aka Torres) I thought she was pretty out there; a bit on the experimental pop side and not at all my usual stuff. However, “Sprinter” was so brilliant that as long as she didn’t go any farther “out there” I would be OK. Then she released “Three Futures” which takes three giant strides further out there but is so evocative and brilliant you can’t deny its greatness.

“Three Futures” takes the experimental approach to “Sprinter” and infuses it with dark matter and electrical current. Torres embraces a heavy electronica sound, fusing it seamlessly with lyrics that express stark truths about sexuality, power and frailty. Drum machines, synthesizers and the drone of feedback set a soundscape that is immersive and yet incredibly stark. I shouldn’t like this stuff, but I couldn’t help myself.

Over this undulating ocean of sound, Torres’ voice casts a spell of seductive truth. Her vocals are powerful throughout her range, and she enunciates her words with the care of one who knows that good music is like poetry – every word matters. I was pleased to read Torres has a minor in English Literature – it gives hope for the rest of us.

Torres has many influences and I could hear the aggressive poetry of Patti Smith and the rich nineties dreamy ambience of Sarah McLachlan. There’s even a little early Enya, and the way that synth riff dances around on “Greener Stretch” sounds like some digital Celt marching to the sea.

“Three Futures” is laden with characters coming to terms with themselves and how people are drawn to one another. The whole of it drips with desire. On “Skim” she sings “There’s no unlit corner of the room I’m in” reminding you that nothing will be too personal to shine a light on. She invites you to take a dive with her into the deep end. No stone will be left unturned and no topic will be too uncomfortable or taboo.

On “Righteous Woman” she sings:

“I am not a righteous woman
I’m more of an ass man
And when I go to spread, I’m only
Squinting out a strip of land
From my panopticon.”

Lascivious twists on gender imagery strip away arbitrary boundaries, as Torres sings these lines like honey is dripping from her tongue. On top of all that, she taught me a new word: panopticon. It is a prison where a single guard can look in on any inmate at any time, but the inmates are never aware if they are under surveillance at any given moment. The voyeuristic element adds another layer to the grand seduction. We can only assume that like Torres artistic talent and fearless approach to her art, the individual rooms of her panopticon have no unlit corners.

For an album that is so laden with naked truths, there is a depth to the delivery that makes you realize that Torres didn’t come to these topics from some prurient crowd-pleasing place, but through a deep exploration of the nature of desire.

My only disappointment is the final track “To Be Given a Body”. The song has wonderful moments but at eight minutes is a bit too long, and features a lot of percussion that sounded like the speakers were turned on too loud.

It is a minor quibble on a record that otherwise thoroughly ensorcelled me. “Three Futures” was invigorating, sensual and provocative and makes me excited to see where Torres will go next with her prodigious talent.

Best tracks: Tongue Slap Your Brains Out, Skim, Three Futures, Righteous Woman, Bad Baby Pie

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