“It is entirely about using the body that each of us has been given as a mechanism of joy.” That’s how Mackenzie Scott, better known as Torres, describes the concept behind third album, ‘Three Futures’. For anyone who’s tracked her career from the beginning, this rather upbeat statement might come as a bit of a surprise. She’s always sounded raw and emotional, her songs filled with the thorniest of life’s issues. On her last album ‘Sprinter’ in particular, she dealt with depression and unbridled rage, as well as her own adoptive lineage in a brutally honest, unflinching manner.
Even from a cursory listen to ‘Three Futures’ though, it’s clear that Mackenzie is expanding her horizons, the lusciousness of the melodies alone hinting at the themes of desire and indulgence that lie within. Her reconnection with producer Rob Ellis is evident in the guitars and crisp percussion that punctuate the record, which veers from krautrock rhythms to scuzzy riffs and loud-quiet structures. The shifts between intimacy and ecstasy are simply emphasised by the greater wealth of sounds employed throughout the album. Synths and electronic beats give ‘Three Futures’ even more musical texture, moving between loud and vibrant to muted and skittering.
These additions make her lyrics about being in the realm of the senses all the more tactile. Flesh and touch are dominant subjects, still doused in the poetic images that have continually peppered her songwriting. She speaks about interpersonal relationships in tangible ways, whether asking hypothetical questions like “did he hold your hips with authority?” or flipping to other perspectives, talking about getting hard in another’s car, adding the detail of it being in the parking lot of a Masonic lodge to paint an even more vivid picture. She even wraps some of these observations on the body into knowing puns. With ‘Righteous Woman’ she declares that she’s not so holy, kind and virginal; instead, she’s “more of an ass man.”
‘Three Futures’ doesn’t entirely abandon the introspection and catharsis that characterised Torres’ first two albums though. On ‘Skim,’ she lingers on the breakdown of a relationship, pouring over the little details to work out just where it all went wrong. In the end, she reduces her position to being “just the skim on top of what has already been,” the staccato guitar and creeping, bass-laden electronics barely containing her emotion, which bubbles just under the surface. The contemplative title track is drowned in a fog of ethereal sound that helps bring to life its meditation on what has been and what is still to come, Scott’s eyes “a trinity divided” of mutually exclusive possibilities.
In a sense, the idea of seeing multiple possibilities is something of a metaphor for ‘Three Futures’ as an album. It retains some of the brooding examination of Torres’ previous work, but also ventures into previously little-trodden ground in sumptuous new ways, both musically and thematically. It touches the heart and head with its examinations of love, lust and desire, and while it’s sometimes still a challenging listen, it’s easy to indulge in.