MG – MG (Mute)
Listen Now: “Europa Hymn”
GOING FOR TOP 200 & RPM ADDS
“atmospheric, synth-heavy single.” – Rolling Stone
“a brooding twinkle of a track” – Stereogum
“swelling synths that feel like they’d be at home with some of the Tangerine Dream work of decades before.” – Noisey
Martin Gore, songwriter and founding member of Depeche Mode, announces the releases of MG, an evocative 16-track electronic instrumental album out on April 28 2015 on Mute. We are thrilled to share “Europa Hymn,” the first taste of this dynamic album.
Written and produced by Martin Gore, MG came to fruition following the final dates of Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine tour in March 2013 at Gore’s home studio in Santa Barbara. An entire instrumental album had been in his thoughts for some time, particularly since he has been writing instrumentals for Depeche Mode since 1981.
“I wanted to keep the music very electronic, very filmic and give it an almost sci-fi like quality,” Martin explains. “Music is a necessity for me. I go into the studio at least 5 days a week, every week, so once I had the idea and the template, the process was quick and fun.”
MG is a soundtrack to an emotional and mysterious film of your own design. From the Angelo Badalmenti-like atmosphere of “Elk” to the industrial electro swagger of “Brink,” it landscapes a unique and arresting vision.
After finishing recording MG, Martin asked Q to mix it, which seemed a perfectly natural choice as he previously mixed VCMG, Martin Gore and Vince Clarke’s 2012 album, SSSS.
Explaining the decision to release the album under the acronym, MG, Gore says, “As the album is very electronic and has no vocals, I felt it deserved another persona so decided to carry on the MG concept from the VCMG album.”
MG showcases another side to this multi-talented musician. “As a songwriter, I am aware of the power of words,” Martin admits. “Especially when they are juxtaposed in the right way with chords and melody. I am also aware of the power of pure music and the emotions that can be created by musical atmospheres and that is what I wanted to capture with this project.”
Focus Tracks: 6, 1, 8, 9, 12
Midival Punditz – Light (Six Degrees)
Listen Now: “Baanwary”
GOING FOR RPM & WORLD ADDS
Their accomplishments in creating a unique and refreshing genre were recently honored when winning their first GIMA Award, Indian’s equivalent of America’s Grammys, for “Best Electronica Song”. Accolades for their growing body of work are pouring in. Recently, Alicia Keys invited the Punditz to perform alongside Norah Jones, Will.I.Am and Usher in New York City. Known predominantly as electronica innovators—and Light is very dance floor-friendly—the duo decided to up the ante by creating a fuller, live sound, evolving their craft as songwriters and performers. While there are plenty of Indian influences on their new record—Raina says they’ve leaned towards folk over classical, the signature sound they built their early careers on—Light is their most cohesive and driving album yet.
Perhaps most impressive about these two is their artistic integrity. While they have established themselves in the soundtrack world as well, appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone India alongside label mate Karsh Kale last year, Light‘s songs are mostly six minutes or longer. Rather than getting in and out as quickly as possible, they’re more concerned with telling a story through music.
As Raina says, “Most of the these tracks are so cinematic and have so much to say and so many moods they’re going through, it takes at least five or six minutes to tell a story.”
“I don’t feel like the record sounds really sad because we weren’t really sad when we were making it,” she says. “I usually can’t write about anything while I’m sad. I can only write about it once it’s funny, which can take a really long time, after its been in the bottle a while. We tried, in between a few nightmares, to sound pretty and joyous. I don’t want to be the designated bummer–I like to laugh and dance too much for that.”
Focus Tracks: 2, 9, 7
Other Lives – Rituals (tbd)
Listen Now: “Easy Way Out”
GOING FOR AAA & TOP 200 ADDS
“Portland-by-way-of-Oklahoma band Other Lives is always exploring new textures and ‘Reconfiguration’ is full of driving rhythmic layers anchored by a piano hook that serves as a skeleton on which to build their floating synth and vocal melodies.” – NPR Music
“The track is a full, lush three and a half minutes, busting with instrumentation and lines that require two hands to count. The band employs three different drum patterns, quick twangy guitar riffs, multiple piano chords, atmospheric synths, and even violin to seamlessly fill every bit of space.” – Stereogum
“This new song marks an exploration of shadowier atmospherics and bolder, experimental rock.” – Consequence of Sound
Other Lives is comprised of Josh Onstott, Jonathon Mooney and Jesse Tabish. Rituals is a pure encapsulation of the band’s relentless drive for precision.The trio relocated to Portland, Oregon from their hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma to record the album. Tabish says the relocation had a direct influence that can be heard through Rituals.
“There was a spirit of change,” Tabish offers. “We had done [2011's second LP] Tamer Animals, which was very close to us and about our home. So the next record was about the spontaneity of travel and being isolated. For the first times in our lives we were moving off on our own away from our families and kind of coming into our own. I wanted the songs to reflect that new spirit.”
“This one was a real journey,” Tabish says of the 18 months spent writing more than 60 songs for Rituals, a constant creative outlet for the relentless sonic architect amid a rigorous few years of touring their debut album. “It was a long time spent searching for a new identity,” the soft-spoken singer continues of the writing process, “still trying to retain the past of our musical palate but also really trying to stretch ourselves into a new type of music.” The album was produced by Mooney, Tabish and Joey Waronker (Eels, Atoms for Peace, Beck, etc.).
While Rituals marks a new chapter in Other Lives’ story, it’s also a continuation of a decade-plus passage. “I feel really lucky to be able to have a band and people around me that have been so supportive and we’ve stuck together all these years and still don’t hate each other,” Tabish says. “All three of us are like brothers. I don’t think that will ever go away. I loved those kids then and I love them now. There’s that mutual feeling. If I want to go have a beer with anyone it would be those two guys. That kind of says something.”
Focus Tracks: 4, 3, 7
Saun & Starr – Look Closer (Daptone)
Listen Now: “Look Closer (Can’t You See The Signs)”
GOING FOR AAA & TOP 200 ADDS
Although they grew up only a few blocks from one another in New York’s South Bronx, singing in local church choirs and in plays since their young ages, the pair didn’t meet until an open mic night in 1986. Bound by a mutual respect for each other’s talent and a shared taste for soul music, Saun & Starr formed what would be a lasting friendship.
As The Dapettes, Saun & Starr became regular members of Sharon Jones’ live band. Before long, Saun & Starr joined The Dap-Kings at Daptone Records’ House of Soul in Brooklyn to begin recording an album of their own material. The first single from this session, “Hot Shot” – penned by Daptone’s in-house producer Gabe Roth and Dap-Kings’ saxophonist Cheme Gastelum, and backed with “Gonna Make Time” – was Daptone’s best selling 45 to date.
Look Closer, which features both tracks from the single, is the culmination of Saun & Starr’s work at the House of Soul. Its all-analogue production and masterful, rich instrumentation are hallmarks of The Dap-Kings, who perform on every track.
Focus Tracks: 1, 4, 8, 7
The Wheel Workers – CITIZENS (Self-Released)
Listen Now: “Yodel”
GOING FOR TOP 200 & RPM ADDS
The Wheel Workers is a Houston-based five-piece recently nominated as Houston’s “Best Pop Act” in 2014’s Houston Press Music Awards. The band also received a nomination for Steven Higginbotham, the group’s lyricist, as “Best Songwriter” – an especially noteworthy accomplishment for a pop band.
The Houston Chronicle called The Wheel Workers’ previous release “one of the best albums made in Houston last year,” and now the band will follow it up with a new record CITIZENS, scheduled for release on May 26th, 2015.
When Higginbotham talks about substance in pop songs, he’s talking about the pairing of sociopolitical consciousness with a memorable hook. After all, there’s a reason that listeners are still moved by the catchiest folk and punk protest songs of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, The Clash, and Bad Religion.
On CITIZENS, the band’s way of doing things has become masterful, with the album’s bookends, “Yodel” and “Citizen Incorporated,” providing the most vibrant examples of the pairing of hook and substance.
Catchy hooks and melodies are essential ingredients for a timeless pop song. Thought-provoking lyrics, and a sense of humor, place and time are often secondary. The Wheel Workers has already been recognized locally for successfully combining these elements, and now with the release of CITIZENS on May 26th, the band’s pop songs with substance will begin to reach the rest of the world.
Along with Higginbotham, The Wheel Workers is comprised of Allison Wilkins McPhail (a fellow Houston Press Music Awards nominee as “Best Keyboardist” – take a listen to “Burglar” to hear why), Craig Wilkins, Tyson Sheth, and Dan Workman.
Focus Tracks: 1, 2, 5, 6, 8
ADDS for 4.21.2015
Bob Moses - All In All (Domino)
Listen Now: “Winter’s Song”
GOING FOR TOP 200 & RPM ADDS
“Restrained arrangement… seems to wring out the emotion of each note” – Clash Music
“… soul of a blues song … with guitar work riding along with the pulse of the beat, the track builds with dark undertones and restraint toward an understated breaking point” – Pigeons & Panes
“Hankering for some moody, post-club music that doesn’t totally expunge the fire within? Bob Moses might just be your men.” – Resident Advisor
We are excited to present All In All by rising electronic duo Bob Moses; eleven songs that encompass the duo’s output to date, combining their recent 12″ on Domino (I Ain’t Gonna Be The First To Cry / Grace) and two releases on Scissor & Thread. All In All serves as an introduction to their hugely successful underground releases and as a bridge to a debut album on Domino coming later this year. The compilation is available via iTunes, Spotify and all other digital services now with a vinyl version available as a Record Store Day exclusive on April 18 globally. The CD version will be available on Tuesday April 21.
“We were never happy just making music on acoustic guitars,” says Tom Howie of the organic-electronic sound of Bob Moses, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Canada duo he formed with partner Jimmy Vallance. “Our live show combines what a DJ does with a rock band,” Vallance adds. “Everything flows together in a continuous mix for the dancefloor, but it’s all our own original music, with live vocals and guitar. Then again, we came out of a scene that was trying to change what dance music is – that pushed beyond the expected sonic spectrum.”
That scene grew around the Marcy Hotel – the revered venue that, in its half decade of existence, proved as important for New York’s contemporary underground dance/electronic music world as CBGBs was for the ‘70s punk era. The acclaimed likes of Soul Clap, Wolf + Lamb, and Nicolas Jaar all gravitated around Marcy’s infamous parties, reimagining dance music in their own groundbreaking image. “We were totally inspired by what was happening at the Marcy. It was a small room, could only hold a couple hundred people tops, but it proved to be such a pivotal place,” Vallance says. See reverse for more information.
“Alongside what other promoters like Resolute and Blackmarket were doing in abandoned warehouses in Brooklyn, New York was an inspiring place to be at the turn of the decade.” Also present was Francis Harris, the iconoclastic DJ/producer and co-founder of tastemaker label Scissor & Thread, which fostered a more personal, homemade take on electronic sounds. After meeting at a studio session for techno mavericks M.A.N.D.Y., Harris, Howie, and Vallance found they shared common ground. “Francis set the road map for the sound we needed to find,” Howie says. Howie and Vallance started writing hooks for Harris’ Frank & Tony project, furthering their collaboration. “We didn’t think much of it until we played Marcy with Frank & Tony in 2012,” Vallance recalls. “Tom sang live to the tracks we’d written, and people went insane! We’d never expected that reaction, which made us think we were on to something,” Howie says. “We woke up the next day thinking, We have to become our own act.’ We came up with the songs for our first EP, Hands to Hold, and Francis agreed to put it out.”
Hands to Hold’s infectious title track appeared in two vastly different versions: an electronic mix that combined subtle grooves and tweaked sound design with Howie’s moody vocals, and a drumless acoustic take. Bob Moses upped the anti-genre ante on its next EP, 2013’s Far From the Tree: one track, “Interloper,” was the kind of dark, fractured 4/4 instrumental one might hear at 5:00am on a Berlin dancefloor, while “Stealing Fire” proved a psychedelic downtempo confessional with eerily catchy vocal melodies; the title song, meanwhile, split the difference between those styles. “Out the gate, we wanted to make clear we weren’t just a dance act,” Vallance says.
Bob Moses received its oddball moniker from Francis Harris in homage to Robert Moses, the urban planner behind iconic New York landmarks like Shea Stadium and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. But while NYC is definitely in Bob Moses’ DNA, its members actually met as high school students in Vancouver, Canada. The pair reunited randomly years later when, bumping into each other in a Lowe’s parking lot, they discovered they had studios across the street from each other in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. Howie had arrived there after a stint at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, on a partial scholarship as a singer-songwriter. Vallance, meanwhile, had found some success as a producer/engineer/DJ creating commercial dance music – his remix of Sia’s “Buttons” brought him some early attention – but “I’d fallen out of love with making cheesy big-room tracks,” he laughs. “We booked a couple days to write at my studio for fun, and by the end of the week, I told Tom, ‘Come live at my place and let’s do this every day.’”
Bob Moses serve as a characteristic addition to Domino’s maverick stable. “We’re massive fans of Domino artists like Four Tet, Caribou, Hot Chip, and Animal Collective, so it just seemed like a natural home for us,” Vallance says. “We feel lucky to be starting this relationship – it’s a big new world.”
Focus Tracks, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
Hudson Mohawke – “Very First Breath (feat. Irfane)” (Warp)
Listen Now: “Very First Breath (feat. Irfane)”
GOING FOR MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS
Early Praise for “Very First Breath” (feat. Irfane):
“Equal parts lush and arena-ready, its likely one of HudMo’s most straightforward, pop-friendly cuts to date. Special guest French vocalist Irfanealso provides airy, sun-kissed vocals, ensuring “Very First Breath” makes it onto a bunch of rooftop party playlists this summer.” – Consequence of Sound
“massive blockbuster scale production, filled with static-laced synth lines and signature HudMo drums”- Mass Appeal
“Hud Mo might have even outdone himself on this track, as he takes listeners on an electronic roller-coaster ride, with perfectly placed drums and hi-hats that mesh wonderfully with Irfane’s stunning vocals on the song”- Complex
This summer Hudson Mohawke will release Lantern, his first solo full length in nearly 6 years, and follow up to last year’s Chimes EP. The producer has been on a meteoric rise the last few years, working with some of the biggest names in hip hop, pop and dance music but everything started in a bedroom in Glasgow when he was barely a teenager. From age 15 he was an award winning scratch DJ producing happy hardcore on cracked software – he came to define a generation of electronic fusion producers but unlike many of his peers, Hudson has matured into a fully fledged contemporary hitmaker continually working to break the mold.
Born of the underground club scene in the UK, “Hud Mo” has been releasing music for the last 10 years, cultivating a formidable presence in the community. His US break-out came in 2012 with TNGHT, the collaborative project with fellow producer Lunice, which saw their production influence the A-list in rap and help reintroduce the US dance / EDM scene to Hip Hop as club music. In the two years following, Hudson has worked on releases from Drake, Kanye West, John Legend, Young Thug, Pusha-T, and Antony Hegarty. Despite becoming one of pop’s go-to producers, to his avid fans he’s never been tied to one genre – and withLantern we hear the realization of everything he has been working on since that Glasgow bedroom.
“This album is everything I’ve been working towards. I wanted to make a classic – at least for me and my friends. I never wanted to be any genre. I wanted to be my own thing. Everything.“ – Hudson Mohawke
Lantern will include some big name guest features from Irfane, Ruckazoid & Devaeux, Antony Hegarty, Miguel and Jhené Aiko. Brace yourself for this one folks; it’s a game changer. We can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime we are thrilled to present the blockbuster first music from Lantern, “Very First Breath.” This epic pop jewel features French vocalist and old friend of Hudson’s, Irfane.
“Mohawke has become a superstar in his own right; he was absolutely deserving of that headline slot” – Stereogum
“balanced moments of crowd-pleasing exhilaration with brief asides of boundary-pushing experimentalism” -Elektro
“the Scottish producer kept his cool in an otherwise sweltering space. Trap beats never sounded so real” – SPIN
“found different ways to build ominous density under pop tunes”- New York Times
Focus Track: 1
Jon Regen – Stop Time (Motéma)
Listen Now: “I Will Wait”
GOING FOR AAA ADDS
“These tunes range from beautifully melodic to funky and fun. Great, great playing and vocals, infectious soulful grooves… Stop Time never stops pleasing the ears.” – Chuck Leavell, The Rolling Stones
“Stop Time is a gem of direct songwriting and elegant playing.” – Benmont Tench, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
“The album is a joy to listen to.” – Larry Crane, Tape Op
Produced by Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney), and featuring Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello and the Imposters, Stop Time finds Regen at the peak of his songwriting and pianistic powers, with ten original tunes that brim with humor and heart. Songs like “I Will Wait,” “Morning Papers” and “Stop Time” prove Regen a master of the sticky lyric and the penetrating piano hook, recalling the work of forbears like Billy Joel and Randy Newman while simultaneously showcasing Regen’s singular take on modern love.
Regen talks about the making of Stop Time in the video teaser, which contains rare studio footage and offers a sneak preview of the album’s new songs. Fans who pre-order the album on iTunes will immediately receive the first single “I Will Wait,” which the Wall Street Journal will premiere exclusively online on March 17.
“The album really began after I met the actor Jeremy Irons at a party in London,” Regen says. “We started talking over ample amounts of wine and soon after, he asked me to play the piano for him. Not wanting to disappoint an Oscar winner, I sat down and started playing a bluesy, New Orleans kind of vamp. Without warning, he grabbed a cello off the wall and started playing it like an upright bass. We jammed together on that one song for nearly fifteen minutes! When I returned home to New York City, I married the bluesy feel of that jam session to a set of lyrics I had written about a guy who becomes dismayed watching his youth slip away. The resulting song ‘Stop Time’ became the anchor for the album that was to come.”
“Jon plays pop music that people might associate with artists like Elton John and Randy Newman, but at the same time, he has a kind of swing in his piano playing that is distinctly his own,” Froom explains. “I think the result is just a tremendous sense of humanity and positivity that you get listening to him. I feel that I’m catching him at a time where everything is really coming together for him as a singer/songwriter.”
A protégé of the legendary pianist Kenny Barron, Regen began his career as a sympathetic sideman to jazz artists like Kyle Eastwood and Little Jimmy Scott. After releasing a series of acclaimed instrumental jazz recordings, Regen made an abrupt left turn in 2004 and released the singer/songwriter EP Almost Home. Regen followed the EP with his full-length 2008 release Let It Go, which featured Andy Summers of the Police and Martha Wainwright.
In 2011, Regen co-produced and released the album Revolution. Featuring contributions from Andy Summers, Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, the album received rave reviews the world over. Bloomberg and Allmusic each awarded it “Four Stars.” The Philadelphia Inquirer pronounced Regen “a supremely accomplished pop artist,” and JazzTimes described his music “as potent as anything crafted by Sting.” Regen surprised listeners again in 2013 with the release of the instrumental album Change Your Mind, his collaboration with the renowned physician and meditation expert Dr. Mitch Gaynor. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard New Age charts and took the top spot at iTunes and Amazon.com as well.
But for Regen, Stop Time cuts even closer to his core.
“For me, the new album is all about hope and home,” Regen says. “In many ways, the album is a sort of love letter to my wife, who helped me realize that there is life beyond the breakup song!” (Regen’s May 2014 wedding was profiled in the Vows section of the New York Times). “It’s a heartfelt album, but it’s also a humorous one because living in New York City is always an adventure. I decided to call the album Stop Timebecause it’s the song that started this whole wild ride in the first place. And maybe if we all could stop time once in a while, we would realize how much there already is to celebrate.”
Focus Track: 1
Squarepusher – Damogen Furies (Warp)
Listen Now: “Rayc Fire 2″
GOING FOR TOP 200 & RPM ADDS
“absolutely top notch” – THUMP
“a tyrannical rhythm” – XLR8R
“utterly mind-bending future sounds“ – PASTE Magazine
“Twittering with a kind of manic energy, this barrage of sugar-addled synths and rapid-fire percussion is the hyperactive love-child of EDM and traditional jazz” – Consequence of Sound
“Through this record I aim to explore as forcefully as possible the hallucinatory, the nightmarish and the brutally visceral capacities of electronic music.”
Just as electronic music fulfills its commercial potential, so too does the inevitable breakdown in innovation reach its nadir. What was once a revolutionary mode has collapsed into conservatism, the retromanic tendency of contemporary dance music laid barer with every new blockbuster release. Once, everything was possible – once, electronic music could hold an unflinching mirror to the world it was birthed in. Today it no longer makes such interventions. What we’ve lost, perhaps above all else, is the passion. DJ culture has melted in on itself; innovators have made their pension plans. And then there’s Squarepusher.
Squarepusher’s legacy is unassailable. From his early releases on Rephlex and his residency at the Blue Note, through his aggressive interpretations of ensemble jazz, the peerless Music Is Rotted One Note, his musique concrète experiments, and the boundary-warping drum ‘n’ bass with which he is synonymous, Squarepusher has tilted ever forwards.
Damogen Furies, his first full-length since 2012’s Ufabulum, sees Squarepusher’s powers in full flow. The techniques and craftsmanship that he has honed over the course of his career have become some of his signal qualities. He has spent the last decade creating and refining his own unique software system, and this album is the first to be made using that system exclusively. It is the culmination of years spent experimenting with and hacking hardware and software, having long since abandoned the limitations of out-of-the-box offerings. Squarepusher has remained truly experimental in part because he has rejected those limitations, choosing instead a compositional process that places the act of building instruments at its heart. On Damogen Furies we hear a truthful, unembellished representation of how those instruments sound. All of the recordings here were made in one take, with no edits.
Damogen Furies is also a response to performance. Squarepusher reveled in the long run of shows that followed the release of Ufabulum, and the robustness and forthrightness of this album is testament to that.Ufabulum was a record born very much of the studio, made using equipment that was cumbersome. Such a static setup made it difficult for Squarepusher to work while on the road. Inspiration can be bounded by time and place, and he wanted the opportunity to seize that inspiration when it happened. For 2015 he has ensured that the system he has spent so many years developing can be easily transported, allowing him to work while travelling but also offering the opportunity for the new live show to constantly morph. The new live set has the capacity for change built in, questioning the position of the recorded artifact as the definitive expression of a piece of music. This new setup ensures that this is perhaps his most immediate record, transposing the power of his performance practice while also anticipating his new live show.
The time between Ufabulum and Damogen Furies was not only taken up with touring. Last year’s Music For Robots saw Squarepusher composing for a trio of robots – a 22-armed drummer, a 78-fingered guitarist, and a keyboardist who plays his instrument with a laser. The project raised questions about the extraction of ego from the archetypical “band” setup, but also freed his compositions from the constraints of human anatomy. At the other end of the spectrum, he has recently completed a run of shows in which Ufabulum was reimagined for an orchestra, led by conductor Charles Hazelwood.
Throughout his career, Squarepusher has engaged with two distinct traditions in particular: that of Miles Davis-school jazz, and that of dance music. On Damogen Furies those two traditions intersect and interact, synthesized into a record that often straddles nightmarish drill ‘n’ bass and the early work of electric jazz pioneers. For example on “Kontenja”’ or “Baltang Arg,” a virtuosic melodicism sits atop macabre, unearthly percussion, a middle finger to all those who believe that musicianship is the preserve of the defanged conservatoire.
Damogen Furies is a record that has the brutal energy and vivaciousness of a debut. It sees the peak and confluence of the preoccupations that have emerged throughout Squarepusher’s career, approached with the antagonism and audacity of an artist who still believes in the power of the intervention.
Focus Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7
TORRES – Sprinter (Partisan)
Listen Now: “Sprinter”
GOING FOR AAA, TOP 200 & MODERN ROCK SPECIALTY ADDS
“A grim yet sexy intensity that recalls PJ Harvey’s first few records from the early ’90s” - Buzzfeed (8 New Rock Records by Women You Need To Hear)
“…a fierce, surprising turn for the young songwriter, who sings about love and inadequacy with a new rawness and at new volumes” – Consequence of Sound (10 Best New Songs of the Week)
“Sprinter finds Mackenzie Scott pushing against the starkness of her 2013 self-titled debut into noisier, vicious rock without losing any of her razor-sharp songwriting” – Stereogum
TORRES knows the darkness. The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter otherwise known as Mackenzie Scott waits until anything—an idea, an emotion, a memory—gnaws at her, tearing at her fingers and throat until she releases it in song. Her husky voice strains against its human biological constraints like a wild-eyed horse, whispering desperately “Don’t give up on me just yet” on one end and yowling about jealousy with unnerving intensity on the other. Following her self-titled debut in 2013, TORRES pushes herself to even noisier extremes on Sprinter, a punishing self-examination of epic spiritual and musical proportions.
A keen awareness of Scott’s place in her family and in the world suffuses Sprinter, contributing to themes of alienation throughout. “You’re just a firstborn feeling left behind,” she sings on the ominously brewing “Son, You Are No Island,” which references one of Scott’s influences on this record: English poet John Donne’s 1624 poem Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. Scott’s tortured wailing circles spirals downward around itself, reflecting in a dark mirror the feelings of an adopted child. “Whether it be abandonment, or fear of rejection, or perhaps inability to connect with people, comes down to that fear of isolation, of not being good enough,” says Scott. “Those are themes that have cropped up in my personal life, in my writing.”
But Scott escaped the confines of her churning mind in order to find herself by recording Sprinter in the market town of Bridport in Dorset, England; and then at the Bristol studio of Portishead’s Adrian Adrian Utley. With his guitar riffs and synthesizers lingering in the background like a lowland mist and PJ Harvey’s Robert Ellis and Ian Olliver on rhythm—the two fortuitously reuniting 23 years after the release of Dry, and in Scott’s 23rd year of living—she crafted a “space cowboy” record. “That’s as simply as I can say it,” says Scott, who cites inspirations as diverse as Funkadelic and Nirvana, Ray Bradbury and Joan Didion,. “I wanted something that very clearly stemmed from my Southern conservative roots but that sounded futuristic and space-y at the same time.”
It seems like an odd thing to look for in the picturesque seaside green, rolling hills in the south of England, but Scott had never been there before, and as a stranger in a strange land she found what she was looking for: a lost childhood. Sprinter was recorded in a room that had formerly been used as a children’s nursery, which combined with the alien landscape fuels the self-searching that roils TORRES’ music. “Cowboy Guilt” perfectly encapsulates the contrast of Deep South conservatism with future sounds, juxtaposing George W. Bush parodies with wearing one’s Sunday best, bouncing on a mechanically whimsical melody.
After all, it was Scott’s Baptist upbringing 4,000 miles away in Macon, Ga. that gave her a voice in the first place. When her parents gave her an acoustic guitar at age 15, after giving her flute and piano lessons before that, she would sing church hymns at the local nursing home to get over her stage fright. As Scott moved away from organized religion toward something far more real and personal (“I still think of myself as quite God-fearing,” she says), she ranged farther from home, to Nashville—where she grappled with her outsider status yet again, faced with an insular music scene as hard to break into as if it were surrounded by England’s famous hedgerows—and then to New York, where she finally felt another semblance of being at home.
“Nashville was just a bit too small for me,” she says. “I don’t really like walking down the street and knowing everyone that I see along the way. I was raised in a small town and there are very special things about it, but I don’t prefer to live that way. I like the chaos of the city.”
Focus Tracks: 5, 1, 2, 4