Singer-songwriter Adam Torres self-released his first solo album, Nostra Nova, in 2006. After that he disappeared from the music scene for several years, doing volunteer work in Ecuador and then going to graduate school in Austin, TX. The album was reissued last year by Misra Records, and this year he returned with a new album on Fat Possum Records, Pearls to Swine. With it, Torres steps out from being a “where did he go?” cult figure and into the spotlight.
Torres brought this new album live to DC9 last week. Accompanying his haunting falsetto vocals were fellow Austin musicians violinist Aisha Burns, bassist and keyboardist Dailey Tolliver, and drummer Thor Harris. The band played through much of the album, including particular highlights “Juniper Arms,” “Some Beast Will Find You By Name,” “High Lonesome,” and “Where I’m Calling From.”
Co-headlining show was Thor Harris with his new project Thor & Friends, whose self-titled debut album was also recently released. Harris, who became well known as a member of Shearwater through the Island Arc period and then as a member of the reformed Swans through four albums, has always been an eccentric if endearing figure, and his “anti-rock” project does little to shed that reputation. The central instrumentation of the project consists of xylophone and marimba, and up to four players (including Harris himself, as well as Peggy Ghorbani, Sheenah Ko, and Jordan Geiger) played at any point, backed by Torres and the rest of his band on their instruments. Harris stepped forward several times to play an alto clarinet, and once to read letters from Dear God, his book of “letters written to all sorts of people, places, and ideas that [he] felt a need to address while he traveled the world on tour.” The music was primarily instrumental, though a non-album track “Grass Fire!” featured shouts of… well, “Grass fire!”… from Harris, echoed by members of the group (with an invitation to the audience to participate as well).
Overall, while the show was quite different from the regular Monday night at DC9, those who came out got to witness two artists at their peak creating unusual and interesting sounds backed by a set of expert musicians. Both are well worth checking out the next time they come through town.