Iceland is a fascinating country: hot springs and black earth; a near-lunar landscape with the aurora borealis glittering above. It is a place unlike any other on earth. It also produces some fascinating and distinctive musicians. And though not as well known as her compatriot Björk, Emilíana Torrini Davíðsdóttir is just as intriguing an artist and deserves a wider audience.
Probably best known internationally for her contribution to the Lord Of The Rings soundtrack – Gollum’s Song – this beguiling new album, her second for Rough Trade, may well net her new fans. Working again with producer Dan Carey, this is a different animal from the intimate, atmospheric and often acoustic Fisherman’s Woman; it feels more textured, more experimental, harking back in places to earlier offering Love In The Time Of Science, with its scattering of trippy, glittering beats, only building on that sound, enriching it.
Her voice remains a beautiful thing, sweet, lilting and almost childlike at times, but capable of conveying emotion, both pleasure and pathos, when it needs to. This is evident from the opening track onwards, especially amidst the reggae style sound of the title track Me And Arnini, a song of obsession and yearning, that is both playful and slightly sinister.
This is a common trend on this album, tunes that on the surface have a near-sugary quality, reveal hidden layers on repeated listens. As in her previous work, those sweet vocals hide an undercurrent of darkness, things shifting under the surface. This is encapsulated by the breathy, dissonant Gun; when she whispers “I love you and I’ll never let you go,” it sounds like a threat.
Other highlights include the hypnotic Birds and the winning Big Jumps, a song whish urges us to embrace life, take some big jumps, and don’t be afraid to break some bones along the way. While the first half the album feels more lively in tone and more overtly produced – the sudden, unexpected, dance-around-the room explosion of Jungle Drum, a case in point – towards the end of the album the tracks become simpler but no less effective, cumulating in the stripped down and minimal Bleeder.
At times her particular style calls to mind Imogen Heap and there is even, on occasion, a touch of Joanna Newsom in that little-girl voice of hers, though Torrini sounds the worldlier and less affected of the two. In a way this new release takes what worked best in her two previous albums and blends it, binds it, together, but in a way that doesn’t feel contrived. This feels more polished product and will no doubt have a broader appeal as a result, but it is a treasure of a thing and the more people that hear it the better.