“Pearls To Swine”
introduction by tom johnson
That first meeting with Adam Torres‘ Pearls To Swine LP, via the aching country lilt of High Lonesome, was a most majestic of introductions, the sound of a soft but endlessly intriguing voice that could bring a flicker of light to even the most dark of nights. Like some lovelorn tale of the prairie the story was told as much by the mood and a secrets behind the eyes, as the words themselves.
Such aesthetics are repeated across his new LP, Pearls To Swine, which we’re extremely pleased to unveil today, and that high-pitched, fragile, croon takes on the role of chief protagonist in some furiously romantic novella; Torres crafting sumptuous ballad after sumptuous ballad, resulting in one of 2016’s most adventurous, delicate, and endearing long-players.
You can stream the album in full on here from today, and be sure to scroll down a little further to read his own thoughts on each of the tracks on this wonderful record.
by adam torres
This one is about geographical and emotional landscapes and how we are affected by fate in our surroundings. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so the geography of vast desert plains and rugged desert plants are a part of my blood. A few years ago, I first read the book Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey and I fell in love with his humor, philosophy, and the way he wrote about the American West. When I wrote this song, I was going through a tough time – I had been hospitalized by an SUV who didn’t see me at an intersection and crashed into my bicycle and me in Austin, Texas. I was in excruciating pain, could not walk for several weeks and, in bed, I wrote this song. In that time, I reread Desert Solitaire and felt like crying as Abbey was describing his elusiveness of knowing the essence of his muse, the juniper tree:
“Two living things on the same earth, respiring in a common medium, we contact one another but without direct communication. Intuition, sympathy, empathy, all fail to guide me into the heart of this being – if it has a heart.”
The failure that Abbey described resonated with me and the failures I was experiencing in my own life. Memorializing my recovery and attempt to find out if I still had a heart seemed like the only thing I could do at the time. Like Abbey, the character in the song is spending the night in a harsh realm while rain, thunder, and lighting rolls through. Thor Harris’ vibraphone solo in the middle of the song is the immense cloud in the distance heaving rain onto the earth. Aisha Burns’ rising violin standout is the climax of the song, paired with timed breaks and light touches of Matthew Shepherd’s drum kit and Dailey Toliver’s bass, is the rain being absorbed into hot sand at hyper-speed – a reminder that natural systems and our bodies can and do regenerate.
Some Beast Will Find You By Name
I started writing this song in 2010 when I was living in Cuenca, Ecuador but didn’t really finish it until 2013 when I was living in Austin. We recorded this song live to tape on the first take at Cacophony Recorders here in Austin with Rudy Villarreal III on drums, Dailey Toliver on bass, Thor Harris on vibraphone and timpani, and Aisha Burns on violin. The idea behind it is that running away from the problems in your own life is futile because your own flaws will travel with you and rarely, if ever, change. It is easy to vilify others because it is such a convenient abandonment of self-responsibility. This song is about realizing that the monster is not in other people but that the monster is you.
Before “society” and “civilization”, our ancestors lived openly in the darkness of the night and there weren’t any artificial lights that polluted the sky. We used to watch the stars for entertainment and as a reminder of how small and shallow our experience on this planet really is. But this is not a common experience any more because of rampant modernization. Sadly, the experience of seeing a sky painted in the shades of thousands of stars only happens when you travel to unpopulated areas in the wilderness. The syncopation of Matthew Shepherd’s drum kit, Dailey Toliver’s bass, and Thor Harris’ congas serves to accentuate that purposeful and rolling journey away from “civilization”. This song is a dedication to the pure joy of standing in the presence of the cosmos during the nocturnal hours. No matter how jaded you have become by your own obsessions, encountering the constellations sharply focuses on the infinite insanity of existence in unparalleled wonder.
For this song, I wanted to focus on textures, both lyrically and in the recording, and I wanted the “texture” of the lyrics to match the texture of the sounds we were getting, so hopefully the listener would be “soaked in the sound” of the watery textures of the words, rhythm, and melody. Thor Harris’ conga and vibraphone and Dailey Toliver’s upright bass are meant push the rhythm forward like steady droplets while Aisha Burns’ violin parts intend to usher out like water from a culvert. The lyrics and words express mundane disappointment and presents the option of acceptance or denial in the question “Will you go outside?”
This is the song about a recurring nightmare in which I was being murdered while I slept. Great bedtime story! Over the course of the recurring episodes, they all seemed to happen in different ways — sharp tooth creatures, flying gargoyle-type birds descending, and one time a monster setting fire to the room I was sleeping in while I was dreaming. For the longest time, it was so difficult to get a drum part that worked. Matthew Shepherd came to the project with this perfect part simultaneously adding depth with the ride cymbal while syncopating the bass and snare drum parts to let the other instruments breathe melody into this tripped out dream. Dailey’s bass and Aisha Burns’ violin both capture the muck of going through the torment and Thor’s vibraphone adds an airy and psychedelic color to the song, as a fortunate distinction of fact and fantasy.
Similar to Daydream, I wanted this song to sound like it was out of a hallucination of some kind, even though that sounds like a cliche — I promise not to compare this song to any of David Lynch’s work. The steady pulse of Dailey Toliver’s upright bass, Thor’s conga drums, and Aisha’s distorted and droned violin accomplish the fiery vision from where I’m listening. Throughout my life, I have often felt in pursuit of a dream and purpose and then I reach a point the realization that I have lost myself in some way. This is such a common experience because most people that I talk to admit that their lives take them on mysterious and confusing paths. The term ‘outlands’ refers to a remote and distant territory and to me this can also be the territory within any person’s mind.
Where I’m Calling From
This is the song about what comes after the hopelessness of Outlands. Utter alienation is found in the speaker’s belief that he or she is isolated from the world. The instrumentation of the recording — Rudy Villarreal III on drums, Thor on congas, Dailey on bass, and Aisha on violin — is meant to be sparse and listless to match the lyrical tone of the song. But later on, the speaker undergoes a life-changing transformation after eating all of the moon and stars from the sky to give new life to their own self. The song changes from muddy dirge to slow doo-wop, and comically enough, the character begins to sing the blues. This transformation is a bit tragic, because in the end, the speaker realizes that no one is around to hear.
I wrote this song in 2011 because I was homesick and needed a way to instantly travel. I was working at a university in Cuenca, Ecuador, and after long days at school, I would sometimes sit by the Tomebamba river and eat and drink supper, alone. I would fantasize about being able to shrink myself into the water bottle I had finished drinking and having it thrown into the river, carrying me (eventually) back “home”. To add to this fantasy, the song features a choir consisting of Molly Burch, Emily Cross, Caitlin Kraus-Torres, and Jazz mills. The unison chorus is meant to add an airy texture to the story, in attempt to transcend time and distance.
Buildings, streets, and cities themselves are, in fact, a representation of controlled violence. That tech start-up entrepreneur who just built a three-block $200 million apartment complex in a growing neighborhood in your city (any city) resulted in the dislocation and uprooting of families and people who could no longer afford to live in their homes. This is happening everywhere because of “what the market will bear”. This song is a fantasy that real people will no longer be crushed by capitalism and imagines a world in which people have a mutual respect for one another and could co-exist peacefully in some way.
‘Pearls To Swine’ is released on September 9th, via Fat Possum Records
You can pre-order it here