Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra FRI-SON, FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND

Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra

Friday, March 24 2023

When I travel and wherever I land, I always keep an eye out for opportunities to sample the local live music scene. 
Case in point; I discovered that Emiliana Torrini and The Colorist Orchestra were on tour and playing one Swiss date in Fribourg and the venue (lucky for me) – Fri-Son is just a ten-minute walk from where I’m staying.
Happy days.
I’m familiar with Emiliana Torrini, my gateway into her music had been Me And Armini, her 2008 album and although it’s an interesting listen, it’s been one of those albums that over the years, through no fault of its own, has been pushed down the pecking order when it comes to choosing what to play next.  

Pre-gig I learned that the Emiliana Torrini/Colorist Orchestra collaboration was originally envisaged to span a run of five concerts. A live recording of those dates was subsequently released in 2016 but clearly, The Colorists and Torrini were left with a feeling that they had something more to offer.
Hence, they have returned with a new recording entitled Racing the Storm; released on March 17 to coincide with a 16-date European tour.
I had half-anticipated tonight would be a gentle affair but the reality turned out to be something else entirely. 

When the 8 piece band took to the stage and fired up, to describe the sound as ‘full’ would be to undersell it, it was not too loud though – every instrument, every note had a clarity that gave me the impression I was in the company of not only expert musicians but skilled sound technicians too.
Tonight’s opener, ‘The Illusion Curse’ builds from a simple enough opening into a danceable rhythm and the depth of the sound the string section conjure up is impressive. It is visually stunning too, the stage bathed in red light with Emiliana up front and understandably the focal point.
The Colorists backing provides her soulful vocal a platform of intensity that for me was totally unexpected and it works a treat.  

The Emiliana Torrini/Colorist Orchestra is a stylish combination, with Torrini dressed in a style reminiscent of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and maybe it’s not such a bad association to make, like the work of Kahlo, tonight’s performance is equally as vibrant.
Each song is a complex veneer of instrumentation but they somehow manage to maintain a tuneful, interconnected sound, incorporating deviations into electronica, classical, flamenco and jazz all underpinned by a pulsating drum beat. On occasions, three members of the band were involved in drumming.
Worth noting too that there is only one electric guitar on show tonight and that was a bass; and it didn’t even feature throughout – at times it was substituted for an upright double bass. There were also vibraphones involved which just goes to show there is more than one way to skin a musical cat.  

In a fourteen-song set, there are nine songs lifted from Racing the Storm.
The title track sees The Colorists strings, piano and percussive layers interweave to give it a dream-like quality. Lonesome Fears though is an altogether different beast – threatening and mournful, with the lines
believe not what you see, there is no reality… 
we’re destined for war’ 
sang over brooding orchestration accurately capturing the darker side of the times we are living through.  

There are some interesting between-song revelations; for example, the new single Hilton, we learn is down to Torrini’s love of a good long soak in the bath and is related to a stay at The Hilton Hotel in Brighton where a dripping tap provided Emiliana with sonic inspiration which was in turn interpreted musically by her collaborators.
We also learn the album is so named as during a recording session in Iceland a major storm began to brew, causing the musicians to make haste whilst driving across the country in an effort to fly out of Reykjavik.
The rush seemingly motivated by a desire to continue work on the album in Belgium. Emiliana states 
‘It’s the perfect metaphor: trying to outrun something that is out of your control, harnessing the power of the elements to push yourself forward.’ 

There are three songs from Me and Armini – the title track, Jungle Drum and Gun which I am on familiar terms with – just – as they are reworked to the extent they are given a whole new life.  

A three-song encore ensues, beginning with a Colorist Orchestra instrumental called Dreamlands. 
Then Emiliana returns to perform Jungle Drum which tonight sounds almost like a hip-hop tune overlaid with a 1920’s Charleston beat.
They close the night with the delicate Wedding Song and then they are gone, direction Paris. I have to say it’s a very impressive live music performance.
Something different, unique almost.
A bit Frida Kahlo!
On the way out I wanted to buy the album but the que at the merch table told its own story so the following day I took the Bandcamp route and Racing the Storm has been on repeat since.
I note the tour concludes at The Union Chapel in London on the 31st of March. All I can say is if you have the chance to go, take it, you will not be disappointed. 


Review by William Graham

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