Collaboration between Icelandic-Italian singer and Belgian duo is a collection of charming chamber pop confections that is impossible to resist
The origins of Racing The Storm date back to 2015 when Belgian duo The Colorist Orchestra approached Icelandic-Italian singer Emilíana Torrini to discuss a possible collaboration, whereby they would provide alternative arrangements for a selection of songs from her back catalogue. The initial plan was for a small run of concerts but the collaboration proved so productive that it eventually led to the pair recording a full album of alternative versions of songs from Torrini’s albums Fisherman’s Woman, Me And Armini and Tookah.
As fulfilling as this experience was however, a new project soon started to slowly suggest itself in the background, namely an album of new compositions. The Colorist Orchestra, led by multi-instrumentalists Aarich Jespers and Kobe Proesmans, has since provided similar backing for artists such as Howe Gelb and Lisa Hannigan but listening to Racing The Storm it’s hard not to feel this is the coming together that sounds the most natural and well-matched.
It opens with Mikos which establishes both musically and lyrically much of what is to follow. The arrangements are both lush and minimal, reminiscent of Yann Tiersen film soundtracks while lyrically it sees Torrini delve into stories of human relationships, delivered with tenderness and exquisite clarity. Further tales of companionship and emotional support follow later on tracks like Right Here. Like many songs on the album, begins with barest of elements and amplifies into something with real presence and purpose. It feels like a succinct documentation of the many journeys life takes us on, Torrini reassuring how “I’m right here by your side” with genuine intimacy. It’s one of many tracks where she directly address an unnamed other, outlining shared scenarios and communal experiences. Wedding Song covers similar territory, unashamedly romantic and with moments like those when she sings “here we go, my life is yours” it’s certainly befitting of special occasions.
Hilton is one of the album’s stand out tracks, all interlocking musical machinery, rotating beats and playful arrangements. Torrini’s vocal inflections are both elegant and beguiling and with electronic elements being mixed with the orchestral, results in a dynamic five minutes. Dove is intricate and crystalline, making its impact in more subtle, considered ways. Both tracks in their own way showcase her mastery of measured melody. The Illusion Curse features more in the way of pronounced, slightly darker orchestral arrangements, her voice again, as clear and pure as the cold Icelandic air. Somewhat inevitably, certain moments recall her compatriot Björk (maybe if she had fully re-embraced traditional song structures).
Lonesome Fears ends the album on a more pensive, darker note with Torrini singing of how “we’re victims of war” and of a “fear of being alone”. It further proves how Racing The Storm is an album that quietly seeps into your consciousness, a collection of charming chamber pop confections that is impossible to resist.