It’s now been five years since Icelandic singer Emilíana Torrini’s last album, 2008’s Me And Armini. During her time away Torrini initially struggled to create a new album as she was beset by internal pressure and confusion over how to follow up the album. Returning from the UK to her homeland as well as becoming a mother seems to have provided creative succour for the singer though and once again, in harness with long time collaborator Dan Carey, Torrini has crafted an evocative and poetic album full of deftly poised electronic folk.
Tookah is something of a concept for Torrini, one which represents freedom and salvation. Away from the grind of touring and pressure to create something special, it’s the sound of Torrini losing herself in the music and her own blissful dreamworld. Echoing the Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, Tookah is a word made up by Torrini to describe a sense of inner peace and tranquillity that can be present in everyone. The album, in a way, is her quest to find a sonic inner peace.
Much of the music here is pastoral electronica, rooted in atmospheric and evocative folksy melodies underpinned by either bubbling percussive beats (Tookah) or keening ringing synths (Caterpillar). Torrini’s pure and perfectly poised voice is the glue that binds everything together. In her gossamer smooth vocals who hear the sound of someone once again in love with music.
As such, there is a sense of joy running through the album. Home radiates a feeling of warmth and contentedness as Torrini sings about her homeland proclaiming: “You’re in my heart.” Elsewhere, Elisabet is a lovely ode to her aunt who she describes as an inspiring woman using a wonderful array of imagery. Yet it it is by no means a saccharine utopia. There are a number of tracks with a more atmospheric edge that suggest some of the album’s somewhat troubled gestation. Animal Games bristles with attitude as Torrini scorns a lover afraid of commitment, the music’s arresting circular percussive sounds providing a nice accompaniment to a clever track.
Much of Tookah is soft focus; this work is very much not a grand statement. That plays to Torrini’s strengths though. In two supreme pop tracks, Tookah features some of Torrini’s very best pop melodies. Speed Of Dark is an unequivocal joy; bursting with personality, it is a big bold pop song that showcases Torrini at her very best. Closing track When Fever Breaks is a far more mysterious beast that is no less alluring. Here, Torrini weaves a beguiling sonic pattern as she drifts from meditative mantra to a funky melting pot of vibrant fevered guitar. The effect is akin to something from Talking Heads’ Remain In light.
Tookah is an album that offers an insight into Emilíana Torrini’s world. It doesn’t follow any trends or prevailing sounds but instead casts its own unique and understated spell. A long delayed follow up, it has emerged in its own time as a gentle triumph.