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Tori Amos – Night of Hunters

Tori Amos, Night of Hunters

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THERE’S no faulting Tori Amos for ambition, no matter what you may think of the resulting albums.

Her latest, Night of Hunters, takes its inspiration from classical pieces spanning the last 400 years, by composers ranging from Bach and Schubert to Granados and Satie, and marks the return of Amos’s piano to centre stage.

It is also her first studio album exclusively involving acoustic instruments. The songs are arranged for string quartet and flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon in various formations.

For the recording Amos has put together an ensemble of outstanding performers from the classical world, including the award-winning young Polish string quartet Apollon Musagète and Berlin Philharmonic principal clarinettist Andreas Ottensamer.

Instrumentally, therefore, it’s often quite entrancing. The songs, which she wrote and produced, find Amos carrying on the tradition of variations on a theme to create a bold new work while paying tribute to the mastery of the original compositions.

In her own words: “I have used the structure of a classical song cycle to tell an ongoing, modern story. The protagonist is a woman who finds herself in the dying embers of a relationship.

“In the course of one night she goes through an initiation of sorts that leads her to reinvent herself, allowing the listener to follow her on a journey to explore complex musical and emotional subject matter. One of the main themes explored on this album is the hunter and the hunted and how both exist within us.”

I have to admit at this juncture that the album is an acquired taste. It’s almost like a theatrical production, or ballet, without visuals and a slow-burning one at that.
Amos’ vocals, while certainly striking and evocative of the emotions her words are tapping into, sometimes come as a hindrance to the instrumentals. For it’s in the compositions that the album really excels… sometimes soaring, other times coming over all intimate and fragile.

Among the album’s best moments, for instance, are Job’s Coffin and Edge of the Moon, while the flute-heavy instrumental Seven Sisters is a genuine delight, accompanied as it is by some spritely piano arrangements.

But these moments stand out in an album that requires a lot of patience and a great deal of time to properly sit back and examine.

I personally would love to see some visual production accompany the songs, while I suspect that a live version – backed with the classical performers Amos has assembled – would be quite breathtaking.

In album form, though, it’s something to admire without necessarily being over-awed by. Amos has pulled out all of the stops creatively but there’s just something missing for this particular listener.

Download picks: Job’s Coffin, Edge of the Moon, Seven Sisters

Track listing:

  1. Shattering Sea
  2. Snowblind
  3. Battle of Trees
  4. Fearlessness
  5. Cactus Practice
  6. Star Whisperer
  7. Job’s Coffin
  8. Nautical Twilight
  9. Your Ghost
  10. Edge of the Moon
  11. The Chase
  12. Night of Hunters
  13. Seven Sisters
  14. Carry