It’s been five years since Emiliana Torrini released her album Me And Armini and its memorably bouncy single ‘Jungle Drum’. After that she worked on but ultimately abandoned another record, and life got in the way like it tends to do. By the time Torrini started writing songs for the album she’s recently finished, Tookah, she was a different person with different ideas. “By doing records with such a big space in between you go through so many stages of development,” she says in her delightful Icelandic accent. “I guess if I would have done a record, like, three years ago, it would have been a psychedelic rock record. You just realise how much you morph into something, and also I gave birth to my son and that puts a different head on you.”
Torrini discovered she was pregnant the last time she was in Australia, while preparing for a show at the Sunset Sounds festival in Brisbane. “I thought I was really jetlagged and I thought I still had the food poisoning since Mexico, but actually I was pregnant. That was huge. I have such an amazing memory from it. I was roaming around in this haze like, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible. There’s some little creature growing inside me.’ It was amazing. Then being on stage playing music to all these incredibly happy people was really good for my body.”
Having huge life changes affect her music isn’t new for Torrini, whose 2005 album Fisherman’s Woman was shaped by the death of her boyfriend in a car accident. “It was such an emotional record to make,” she says. “It was a really tough record in that way, but then Me And Armini taught me to let go. When we did Me And Armini we decided, ‘Everything comes out and we’re gonna leave everything alone, no matter how different everything is. We’re just gonna put it down.’ So that was a very quick record to work.”
Tookah was not so quick. At one point, when Torrini and her songwriting/producing partner Dan Carey gave up on work completely, they decided to just kill time watching videos on YouTube instead. That was how they discovered the swarmatron, an electronic instrument that sounds like a choir of bees and was designed by two Brooklynite cousins who also created something called a hymnotron. “We got lost in YouTube watching those cousins talk about it. It was just this incredible swarming noise. It’s the same as Trent Reznor used for a movie [The Social Network]. We just fell in love with it because we were watching them play it on the internet … We became kind of obsessed with those cousins. We’re gonna go on a pilgrimage one day and meet them, I’m hoping.”
Torrini and Carey liked the instrument so much they ordered one, but it had to be hand-made before being sent to Iceland, a process that took months. They spent the time watching more YouTube, which is where they found the next piece of the puzzle – an Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer. “I fell in love with the Oberheim and I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do electronic music. I really need to dance.’ I’ve had the baby and most women or people need to go out with friends and have a weekend of dancing. I needed to go in the studio and make dance music. So we just did [first single] ‘Speed Of Dark’ and ‘Tookah’ and danced around, and then we fell into making the record and it became much more natural.”
BY JODY MACGREGOR
Tookah out Friday September 6 through Rough Trade/Remote Control.