Emilíana Torrini, The Colorist Orchestra – Racing The Storm (Bella Union)

Emilíana Torrini, The Colorist Orchestra – Racing The Storm (Bella Union)

It’s OK to daydream sometimes. Lean your head against the knuckles of your hand and drift off into some cinematic version of your life and the incidents that encircle you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is real and what is still a daydream. Perhaps like the way it does for Selma in Dancer In The Dark. And if you are lucky, you can be followed by an orchestra that adds the dramatic shading to your hallucinations.

In the case of Racing The Storm, the daydreamer is Iceland’s Emilíana Torrini and her musical acolytes are Belgian duo The Colorist Orchestra. They are teaming together for the second time and seven years since the self-titled The Colorist & Emilíana Torrini album. However the previous effort was – bar two tracks – following the footsteps of The Colorist Orchestra’s procedure of reworking and adding flourishes to pre-existing songs (the successful Torrini hit ‘Jungle Drum‘ for example). Racing The Storm is all new material and therefore displays how excellently well the crystal clear classically-trained vocals of Emilíana Torrini pair with the intricate layers of Aarich Jesper’s striking yet varied drum performances and Kobe Proesman’s compositions that on many occasion feature marimba, flute, pan-pipes and cello, as well as atmospheric noises such as wind – to symbolize the storm in which the group found themselves during the album’s creation. The trio together make the daydreams feel magical and otherworldly, yet can at any moment shift back into reality.

‘Mikos’ takes a true observation from Torrini as inspiration for the daydreaming, in which she saw a schoolgirl display apathy when staring at another girl’s lifeless body in a sea and deciding not to inform the victim’s mother. Torrini imagines the girl’s internal monologue. “Your body’s moving strange, left by the waves to sink. Your milky skin, your blue veins. I never told your mother, I kept my silence.” The music is rather like the musical equivalent of a black comedy; a combination of darker string chords and mysterious creaky noises paired with droplets of piano and quirky swaying acoustic guitar.

The multi-dimensional tribal-coloured ‘Hilton’ is one for routine-bound bored city-dwellers that daydream about travelling to an exotic paradise. As Torrini puts it: “Too bored with this apartment scene, it’s time we paint the walls with leaves, jump into some forest greens.” As the song develops the initial hints of African instruments and Torrini’s subtle suggestions of leaving the metropolis become bolder to the point where the Icelander is giving a call-to-arms ‘Vogue’-style. In the rap, she uses words ending in -ing to contrast the activities of being in the wild with urban life. The best lines being: “Online shopping, still pretend I’m working. Meerkat staring, traffic humming.”

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The metallic Portishead-like ‘Smoke Trails’ and the instrumental ‘A Scene From A Movie’ exist in some kind of film noir universe. While enthralling ‘The Illusion Curse’ ‘- from its opening street market sounds to its Arabic instruments and Tamino-style singing – could make one daydream of being in an Egyptian kingdom trying to desperately not be hypnotically seduced by a belly dancing princess.

Lonesome Fears’ – which is destined to be used on a trailer for a Sunday night BBC drama – is beautiful and haunting as it sounds like a group of religion-believing ghost soldiers taking a new war victim along with them with a promise that they will meet their maker. “Taking you out my friend, holding each other’s hands until we reach the shore/Believe not what you see, there’s no reality, it’s a trick to keep us low. I’m thinking Jesus said we are destined for more/The Captain is listening…” Aarich Jesper’s forceful drums make it sound like it belongs on an album by the spiritual Faroe Islands musician Eivør.

Although part of the least musically ambitious chapter of Racing The Storm, the happy-go-lucky ‘Right Here‘ further embraces the idea of fantasizing. Emilíana Torrini has described it as “sung from a daydream whilst being poked repeatedly in the shoulder by the outside world”. A funny thought. One that could be encapsulated by the joyful twinkling marimbas that trot along without a care in the world but are occasionally stopped by a subtle yet ominous Nordic shiver. But maybe everyday reality isn’t so bad when there is shows of support by your close friends and family, as expressed by Torrini in the chorus: “To see the light that shines through your eyes, I’m right here by your side.”

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