Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20: Emiliana Torrini, "Love In The Time Of Science"

Artist: Emiliana Torrini
Album: Love In The Time Of Science
Year: 1999
Label: One Little Indian

Throughout the 1990's, music seemed to once again begin expanding in countless directions, and countless new styles and sounds were emerging all over the globe. Thanks to the aid of computers for both creating music, as well as the rapid worldwide distribution of said music, cultures were being mixed together like never before. Whether it was African rhythms moving into rock music or the sounds of European clubs reaching to all corners of the Earth, music has never been the same since. Within this explosion, a handful of women with some of the most mesmerizing and beautiful voices emerged, and the likes of Björk, Sia Furler, Beth Gibbons, and many others began to gain large cult followings. With their gorgeous voices and the enchanting music over which they sang, they soon became the most admired singers in what was becoming the "ambient" and "trip hop" genres. With a similar singing style, yet opting for far more structured, less heavily programed music, and bringing an equally stunning voice was the one and only Emiliana Torrini. Torrini, whose Icelandic birth and electronically-backed songs automatically toss her into comparison with Björk, is deserving of the credit that comes with such a comparison, yet in no way ever attempts to purposefully sound similar. With a voice that is far more focused, and songs that are far more sensual and more "formally" musical, unless you are aware of her shared country of origin, Emiliana Torrini sounds like one of the many uniquely fantastic female vocalists that emerged during the end of the twentieth century. With a handful of albums and singles to her name, it is almost impossible to resist the allure of her absolutely fantastic 1999 debut, Love In The Time Of Science.

The album, whose title is adapted from the 1985 Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Love In The Time Of Cholera, is by far one of the most blissful and completely engrossing albums ever released. The textures created by the music, as well as Torrini's voice are largely unmatched, and the songs remain fresh and enchanting even after years of listening. While Love In The Time Of Science is a stellar album in its own right, many people may be more familiar with Torrini due to her co-writing Kylie Minogue's hit, "Slow," as well as her performance of "Gollum's Song" that ends the worldwide movie sensation, Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. However, once one becomes familiar with her entire catalog, one quickly realize that while these two songs are very good, they barely compare to the amazing level of musicianship found on her formal releases. It is very much Torrini's ability to perform brilliantly in a number of styles that makes her such an amazing talent, and one of the key reasons that Love In The Time Of Science stands as such an essential record. Taking the influences that were now "global," there are traces of rock, jazz, blues, and countless other genres found within the songs on the album, and it helps the record to almost defy any sort of categorization. From Torrini's soaring vocals to the sensational musical landscapes over which she sings, Love In The Time Of Science stands as one of the few records that can truly be labeled as "perfect."

Though every song contains nothing more then Torrini singing over music, it is the way in which each song is expertly crafted that makes Love In The Time Of Science such a stunning record to experience. The deep moods, both bright and dark, are extremely powerful, and the fact of the matter is, very few artists have ever been able to so perfectly present such contrasting moods on the same record with similar precision and success. As previously stated, it is largely within the the music over which she sings that Emiliana Torrini separates herself from her fellow Icelandic songstress. Torrini's music is far smoother and has a bit more of a pop appeal, lacking the somewhat abrupt and often clamoring sounds that dominate much of Björk's music. This is not in any way a bad thing, and the songs found on Love In The Time Of Science are absolutely gorgeous, with each track taking the listener away on a beautiful sonic journey. Every single note and noise on every song has a purpose, and there is not a note missing, out of place, or even anything extra. Such perfection in musical orchestration in an extremely rare occurrence, and one must credit the quartet of musician/producers that made these sounds happen. These expert musicians, along with Torrini are able to create amazing musical contrasts, from the soft and simple sounds of "Easy" to the bouncing, far louder feel of "Telepathy." Leaving plenty of room for Emiliana to use her most powerful instrument, there is not a "skippable" song anywhere on the entire record.

While the musical patterns and moods found throughout Love In The Time Of Science are simply perfect, there are few singers that even remotely compare to the voice of Emiliana Torrini. With absolutely no limit whatsoever in terms of vocal range or the power the can unleash, the variety in her vocals throughout the album show more diversity then almost any of her contemporaries. Whether she is singing a casual, almost whimsical tune like "Unemployed In Summertime" or a more powerful ballad as is found on "To Be Free," each song has its own unique mood, making for a musical experience like no other album. The way in which Torrini creates a warm, almost friend-like atmosphere on the soft "Summerbreeze" is like no other vocal found in any other genre, and this diversity in vocal delivery is truly something that must be experienced firsthand to be properly understood. While there is a great variance in the vocal style, it is a fantastic contrast to the simple, almost everyday lyrics that flow throughout the album. Finding little need for allusions, Torrini writes about what she sees and experiences, and this translates into songs that can be related to by anyone, and it makes every song all the more engaging. The common feel and simplicity in the lyrics is perhaps no more apparent then in the brilliant "summer youth" anthem "Unemployed In Summertime" when she sings, "...unemployed in summertime, I've only just turned 21, I'll be ok...unemployed in summertime, don't need money 'cause we're young...I'll just stay awake till the morning...with make up all over my face..." From the songs of love and longing to those of freedom and loving life, Emiliana Torrini is absolutely sensational on every song, and the diversity and sound and her fantastic voice set Love In The Time Of Science far above nearly anything else released at the time.

While she may not have gained the notoriety of peers like Björk, Beth Gibbons, or Sia Furler, there is no doubt that Emiliana Torrini is equally, if not moreso, talented then any of her contemporaries. With a truly stunning voice that knows no melodic or stylistic limits, there are few artists who are as instantly mesmerizing as Torrini. Equally as captivating as her lyrics are the moods that are created on every song, and the variance in these feelings is also largely unparalleled within any genre. From dark, cold, yet "safe" feelings to the perfect musical encapsulation of the feeling of sitting in a sunny meadow, every scene is flawlessly painted, and these rich musical textures make the album an absolute classic. Sometimes backed by a lone acoustic guitar, and other times singing over loud, powerful horns and percussion, every turn on Love In The Time Of Science reveals a new and equally intriguing musical platform, and Torrini navigates each style with unheralded success. After experiencing the record, one understands that it is not quite an "electronic" record, nor is it really a "pop" or "ambient" album. The fact of the matter is, throughout music history, there are few albums that are simultaneously so sensational, whilst also being almost completely impossible to categorize. Emiliana Torrini possesses what is without question one of the most amazing voices in music history. All of her wide-ranging talents are put on full display throughout every note of her truly unsurpassed 1999 debut, Love In The Time Of Science.

Standout tracks: "Wednesday's Child," "Unemployed In Summertime," and "Summerbreeze."

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