What An Enormous Room
What an enormous room is not only the title of the new album by TORRES, it is an incantation, a phrase Mackenzie Scott has had in her head now for several years, for as long as some of the songs found here. What an enormous room is an entirely new look at TORRES. Scott’s undeniable skill as a guitar player is still the engine driving her songs, but in “Collect,” it’s pushed through a polyphonic octave generator, creating a sound that is sexy and alien and peak TORRES, a provocative statement of purpose that’s both a call to arms and a call to the dance floor.
“Wake to flowers” is a celebration of the unexpected joy of things turning out much better than one could have hoped. It’s on the slinkier side of What an enormous room, exploring new territory for TORRES that Scott attributes to recording with her friend Sarah Jaffe, the Texan singer-songwriter whose inclination to break genre boundaries has led her to collaborate with Eminem and producer Symbolyc One.
Jaffe provides What an enormous room’s rhythm section, playing bass and drums, and the easiness of her collaboration with Scott made it possible for songs like “Jerk into joy” to emerge like the incantation central to it, and the album itself—after years in Scott’s head in a way that is simultaneously more direct and more sonically ambitious than any TORRES record to date. When she sings “look at all the dancing I can do,” it’s an invitation to awe, and there is much here to be awed by.
What an enormous room contains wry, Laurie Anderson–esque art rock, Nirvana’s rage, and ABBA’s strut. Rather than fear the unknown space she occupies, Mackenzie Scott has chosen to fill it with as much of herself as possible, an artist unwilling to be stifled. We’re hardly alone in our admiration for TORRES. As Julien Baker attests: What I can say about TORRES is I think the music comes from a convicted place. Not convicted meaning a person is narrowly and foolishly committed to an ideal, or unshakably convinced of themselves, or a zealot, or stubborn. I mean dedicated, I mean: If TORRES’ music gets weird, gets brainy, gets funny, gets defiant, provokes, deliberately scandalizes, employs the crass to undermine the austere, courts lofty philosophical truth—it’s all done with the conviction of an artist with the (essential) belief in the worth of their task. I think you can hear it in the songs, someone reaching, leaning over the boundary between known and not, probing the almighty.
After a decade and six studio albums and however many one-offs and tours and articles read and conversations had, the parts of this pursuit I’ve been able to observe are all marked by a dedication to creation that treats the act ongoing with as much preciousness as the evidence of the act that is left in a record. The modes of being are different: heartbroken, broke, furious (right- and unrighteously), awestruck by love, compelled by desire. sometimes resigned to death, sometimes fascinated by and reverent of the future.
Sometimes viscerally present, other times suspended in heady awareness, poised on a fulcrum of observation and participation in the phenomenon that aliveness is. The tools are the same: instruments that growl and shriek and moan, a lyrical voice shouting, swooning, chuckling, snarling as the moment commands. TORRES’ music-making is conducted in a melodic vocabulary unique to itself—methods, equipment, circumstances shifting around the impulse to affirm the self within the world, to make art that bears all these little artifacts of the divine and of the real and show it to people and know it is valuable. I think that’s what Mackenzie’s music does. And I think it’s just incredibly good music to listen to.
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