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What An Enormous Room presents TORRES in strident art rock mode

"What An Enormous Room"

Release date: 26 January 2024
TORRES What An Enormous Room cover
26 January 2024, 09:50 Written by Matt Young

Recorded within a week with co-producer Sarah Jaffe there’s an immediate sense of big energy to What An Enormous Room.

The sixth album from Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter TORRES – aka MacKenzie Scott – sounds bold and announces itself strongly with the breathy stomp of “Happy Man’s Shoes”, proudly wearing a new suit of armour and defiantly proclaiming, “I love you.” Whether this is directed towards a specific person or we the listeners is a moot point, we can feel that same love too.

“Jerk Into Joy”, which provides the lyric for the album's title, mixes the sweetness of unfurling into the happiness of her own making and finding joy in security despite the huge anxiety of life’s wider spaces. The confidence on display runs throughout even when Scott’s facing down her fears, quite literally in “I Got The Fear”. What transpires as you listen is a brave screening of all kinds of emotions and moods including rage, sadness, and solace whilst retaining enough room to breathe and think more clearly.

The kicking ass and taking names dynamic of “Collect” lurches forward with its obfuscated synths and swaggering drums before erupting with anger as Scott asks, “Did I hit a nerve? / Is that what you deserve? / I am the angel of death / I’m here to collect” It’s a strong statement about taking back control, cashing in the chips for a lifetime of misplaced hopes and wishes, and finally getting what she wants. There’s no shame implicit in feeling vulnerable.

“Life As We Don’t Know It” brings a new provocative almost berating tone, aimed simultaneously at the current older and wiser Scott as much as others. The choice to elevate Scott’s vocals on all songs, free from the clamour of too many effects unpeels the emotional layers further as she sings with clarity and strength. This is never more obvious than in the song “Artificial Limits” winding a slower more contemplative snake-like form around the ears. It’s exactly the space that enables the song to sound even bigger as a result.

The fluidity that all of the songs exude sounds effortless and borne out of innate trust, in oneself, partnerships, and collaborations be they romantic, personal, or musical. The short recording process with Jaffe and Scott although deliberately intense has widened the perspective of the initial album demos without destroying the heart at their core. The process of lifting some songs away from their melancholy sound turns them into reflective moods, shimmering on air like album closer “Songbird Forever” a fragile piano piece looking forward, to a future full of more hope.

The acknowledgement of personal fallibilities opens up a fresh perspective on the outer life, getting out of your head, and the swirl of self-doubt that can cause. There are moments where you might feel we’re retreading similar territory from song to song thematically. “Wake To Flowers” is another ode to resilience and clutching onto optimism in the face of doubt, that is used to turn the tables on the present happier version of Scott. Its rasping guitars and spiky instrumentation link numerous songs on the album

Julien Baker provides an album bio and succinctly sums up the version of TORRES we find on this album as she boldly seeks to, “Undermine the austere, courts loftier philosophical truth…all done with the conviction of an artist with the (essential) belief in the worth of her task.”

It’s not as serious or perhaps self-important as Baker makes this sound though, there’s self-deprecation, humour, and a whole heap of self-awareness too. The visceral texture at the heart of What An Enormous Room, is a blending of strange-sounding synthetic instruments and off-kilter beats while the scope of Scott’s lyrics and musical adventuring is alive with possibility and renewed faith. The praise and adoration of 2021’s album Thirstier perhaps acts like a precursor to this newfound confidence and it genuinely feels like now is TORRES time after a decade of musically searching for this exact point in time. But then Scott would probably tell you that it’s always the way with life's hopes and dreams.

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