Album Reviews

Emilíana Torrini – Fisherman’s Woman

(Rough Trade) UK release date: 31 January 2005

Emilíana Torrini - Fisherman's Woman What, would you imagine, would the album by the woman who co-wrote Kylie‘s single Slow sound like? Chilled disco diva? Nope. How about the album by the woman who performed Gollum’s Song in the Lord Of The Rings? Faery folk, and hobbit bollocks akimbo? Non. Strange then, that Emilíana Torrini is capable of both these feats, but chooses for herself, an altogether more intriguing path. Come frolic, but mind and bring yer furry (not faery) slippers…

Like fellow Arctic Circle chanteuses Björk and Stina Nordenstam, Icelander Torrini has the requisite ‘glacial tones’ and ‘ice maiden’ clichés to keep us music hacks happy, but, unlike them, she also possesses a warm, approachable ‘coo’ of a voice that takes you in and soothes, rather than the other two’s tendency to swoop and spook.

Back with her second album after the floating folk/pop debut Love In The Time Of Science, this is a distinctly less dramatic and over-produced affair. Fisherman’s Woman features sparse acoustic shimmers of sound emerging around the child-like cooings of Ms Torrini, to create a wholesome melancholia to wallow in. Mad for sadness? Oh yeah…

So slight are the sparse arrangements (just usually guitar, voice and ambient backing) you feel it may disappear entirely in a will o’ the wisp of dawn time reverie or hash smoke. As we should know, ‘quiet is the new loud’, apparently. Even so, it’s a curio in these modern times to have an album that actually demands to be listened to, rather than a soundtrack / background to other activities. This is not a ‘driving’ album…

The overall feel is of an album born out of time, which could sit happily with fellow bedsit folkies of the sixties without raising a flutter of a kaftan. It is a disquieting thing to hear these bare bones acoustic traces sung in such comforting tones, while actually concerning such dark subjects of death (Snow) and regrets (Sunny Road) in such a chirpy fashion. Definitely an album built on the subtleties of atmosphere, added to by the backing ambient noises of nautical creaking, distant sea sounds and overall open-air feel.

It’s similar in style to folk tendencies of Beth Gibbons (without the witchy dramatics) Laura Veirs or the A Camp near-solo project by Cardigans singer Nina Persson. Amidst all the somnolent haze, the sympathetic cover of English folkie, Sandy Denny‘s Next Time Around comes like a dose of speed metal, with its pace and – gasp – percussion! Similarly, Heartstopper is home to a bit of a beat, which lends a bit of structure to these otherwise open-ended tunes.

The only criticism to this project, and it would be akin to kicking a puppy for being too cute, would be the lack of variety amidst these acoustic balms that no amount of breathy delivery can raise above, admittedly pretty, acoustic navel gazings. Torrini’s voice is easy on the ear, voice rising like bubbles of hope through the desolate mist to reveal a singer following her muse, and not the all-too-easy allures of fashion. And for that alone she deserves recognition, or at the very least a wiggle of Miss Minogue’s posterior.

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