REVIEW: Torrez: The Evening Drag
Torrez: The Evening Drag [Kimchee, 2002] (mp3s)
Three words? silken fireside visions
This is an album of small rooms. The sound is cozy rather than claustrophobic, but you can feel the sweat running off the musicians' arms as they brush together, dripping onto the hardwood floor. A hot wind lazes through the cover's long, red window. Coals smoulder.
The New Hampshire quartet - led by multi-instrumentalist Sidney Alexis and the silken vocals of Kimberlee Torres - creates music of absolute intimacy; guitars murmur and cry while slow, spinning songs wind their way into your ear. Each is as pungent as incense - a thick, spiced smell - buried deep under a pile of velvet. These are not so much sad songs as suicidal ones, burdened by the weight of life. Drums and bass slink over ashen sidewalks, fiery guitars swing out of the air like angels, sultry words are sung into the night. Though there are commonalities here with other female-fronted bands such as Mazzy Star or 27, Torrez's sophomore album is not content to be simply pretty. Torres' delivery is absolutely tragic, the aria of Desdemona before she is smothered beneath a pillow; the careful blazes of electric guitar echo the menace of Arab Strap's later work, while organ gives a lacing of calm.
"The Evening Sun" slips red-hot cello over the wail of theremin and the clatter of drums, growing and fading like a brushfire. "The Flame" shows an insistence and pace that clearly separates Torrez from slowcore royalty such as Low or Slint: there is a real pop melody here, Coldpay with desperation and a hangover. "Final Fantasy" marches with flaming footsteps, confident and dangerous as Nick Cave, eyes fixed on the shadow-laden distance. "The Girls Will Haunt You," on the other hand, opens the disc with a satin caress, a kiss on the ear. It's a down, mellow vibe.
The flaw of The Evening Drag is that despite its rich canvasses - the songs of thick atmosphere and flickering rewards - its scope is too broad. As much as the album captures a feel - nostalgia, fear, darkness and sleep - it cannot make the individual pictures stand out from the vague and misty rest. Everything drifts together, the object of similar emotions and a musical palette that despite its variations, cannot stake out particular images or disparate sensations. The listener is lost in the fog.
As Torres sings the chorus on "After the Carnival," however ("spin me / spin me around / make me dizzy"), the album's weakness seems almost incidental. With ghostly guitars blooming, strange sounds in the corners, it's enough to sit back and enjoy the visions that are evoked, however faded and homogeneous they may appear.