One of the primary goals of a medieval alchemist was to transmute base metals into noble metals. Using a process that was one-third each natural philosophy, science and wizardry, these magicians aimed to turn the common and inexpensive into something rare and valuable. From the dregs, so to speak, alchemists sought to create desirable matter.
Mackenzie Ruth Scott, the singer songwriter who performs as TORRES, is the musical equivalent of an alchemist. From the disappointment of being dropped from a three-album deal with the famous 4AD record label after failing to attain commercial success, Scott spun Silver Tongue — her own precious metal. Through writing — her own version of the much-sought after “philosopher’s stone” — Scott transformed disillusionment into a stirring, stunning artistic statement.
Photo by Michael Lavine
While Western alchemy’s history dates to Hellenistic Egypt, the study’s popularity in Europe peaked during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Interestingly, the sonic textures on Silver Tongue seem to harken back to this era, or at least how the fantasy genre and Celtic/New Age performers represent it. “Records of Your Tenderness” opens with a slow-building, hypnotic drone that evokes a dense, firelit forest. Scott channels both Enya and Daenerys Targaryen as she sings, “I’ve dug so many graves that I never had plans to fill.” Only the early reference to Parliament blues places listeners in a contemporary setting. The tune's haunting synthesizers and vocals create juxtaposition. Much like Scott’s discovery of a love affair’s evidence that inspired the lyrics, the song is both inside and out of time.
For many alchemists, gold represented the study’s end pursuit; however, Scott opts for silver. To understand why, it’s worth noting that someone who is described as “silver tongued” is eloquent and persuasive in speaking. Many of the album’s nine tracks reference Scott’s romantic partner, Jenna Gribbon, who painted the portrait of Scott that appears on the cover. In interviews, Scott discusses forming a deep and immediate connection with Gribbon, leaving her feeling out of control. As she told NPR, Scott struggles with saying the right thing in the moment, and writing becomes a way for her to reclaim agency.
After examining lines like, “I don’t want you going home anymore / I want you coming home” (from “Gracious Day”), it’s no stretch to hear Silver Tongue as oral rhetoric set to music. The acoustic-guitar driven song, one of the more sparsely-arranged tracks on the album, enables Scott’s words to stand out. In our candid chat, Scott informed me she was “a writer’s writer” and that when the music is stripped away, she envisions her lyrics reading like poems. Every utterance is drenched in meaning. If she speaks movingly enough, her silver tongue might just convince her lover to stay.
In other interviews, Scott has referred to her music as “Gregorian country.” That self-assessment is at once accurate and, most likely due to her humility, reductionist. “Dressing America” is straightforward indie new wave with soaring guitars and synths. The title track is dreamy, shoegaze electro-pop. From song to song, Scott hovers between confidence and doubt and often displays both emotions at once. Her alchemy on Silver Tongue is complex and arcane. Each spin reveals more layers, leaving listeners to marvel at how she’s unlocked the secrets to metamorphosing the unwanted into treasure.
- Jerrod Bohn
Bandbox is thrilled to offer Silver Tongue on exclusive “ghostly blue + violet” colored vinyl! Limited to 500 copies and shipping in February 2022, it arrives along with a 16-page Torres zine, featuring an interview with Torres, rare photos and more.