The Colorist Orchestra formed in 2013, which also happens to be when Emiliana Torrini released her last solo record. The eight-piece ensemble quickly found themselves working with artists like Sumie Nagano and Cibelle, and specializing in re-orchestrating and re-composing other artists' work using classical instrumentation and their own musical inventions. Torrini was sufficiently impressed by their reimagining of her song "Animal Games" to agree to a collaborative project. They went on to work on a number of the Icelandic singer/songwriter's tracks, and she and the band put on a series of shows to perform them in their new guises. The gigs were received warmly, and a live record was released as a means for a broader audience to enjoy the refashioned compositions. The first striking thing about the recording is the warmth of the production. Whereas many of Torrini's own recordings benefit from an icy sheen, this record profits from a sultrier sound. The Colorist stay true to the essence of the original songs, but layer in all manner of extra flourishes. The additional strings on "Caterpillar" lift the track from its cozier studio version to really open it up. Throughout the record, the percussion and basslines are felt more deeply, not least on "Blood Red," whose ominous groove shifts the tone considerably. "Speed of Dark" maintains a close affinity with its previous version, but the acoustic instrumentation makes its propulsive bassline rounder and more inviting.
Throughout, the Colorist add textures -- like the twinkling percussion on "Serenade" -- expanding on Torrini's compositions. She in turn reacts to the shift, swapping the more hushed and breathy vocals of some of her recordings for a sharper performance. And her voice is richer on "Bleeder," which only serves to enhance its heartbreaking intimacy. This occasional writer of pop bangers for the likes of Kylie Minogue follows a less obvious arc for her own music, and that trajectory is present when the heat is turned up for her biggest hit to date, the rhythmically arresting and slightly odd "Jungle Drum." Alongside the reworkings, the record also features two brand-new compositions. The first, "When We Dance," nestles itself nicely within Torrini's back catalog. Her voice dances around the undulating strings and the dibs and dabs of percussion for a loose yet carefully crafted track. The second, "Nightfall," was co-written by Kid Koala and is a sumptuous, soaring song that features Torrini's most affecting performance. As on the original renditions, the album doesn't rest on one genre or style for more than a few moments. Given the lack of constraints she puts on herself, and the experimental nature of the Colorist's work, it's somewhat surprising that they don't push the compositions further. Hence, their self-described "acoustic live remix" can sound a little tentative at times. Nevertheless, it's a worthy showcase for Torrini's excellent body of work and achieves a level of quality that many live recordings fail to reach. ~ Bekki Bemrose