(photo by Dustin Finkelstein)
At age 20, Adam Torres, then of the band Southeast Engine, wrote and recorded his first and only proper album, Nostra Nova. He released it in the most DIY of manners in 2006, while living in a college town in Ohio’s Appalachian foothills. This is not a remarkable tale. Many young singer-songwriters record albums and release them with so much hope in their hearts, only to have their songs go mostly unheard outside of their scene. It’s not a tragedy, it’s just the reality of the music world.
Luckily, Adam Torres will not end up one of those people.
On April 21, Misra will reissue Torres’ Nostra Nova, an album that was certainly lost but not forgotten by the small circle it initially reached. Walking the line between folk-rock and freak-folk, these songs were inspired by the visual art of Adolf Wolfli and the writing of Swiss psychologist C.G. Jung, which Torres was exposed to during teenage summers spent in Switzerland. I’ve lived with Nostra Nova for nearly a decade now, and what I hear is someone who was, at an early age, able to connect his own odd experiences to the concept of life itself in an almost innate way. The album is comprised of small songs about big ideas, and big songs about small ideas. A warm, extensive orchestral section helps with this, but sometimes Torres’ acoustic guitar and high howl are enough. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why Torres is warbling about garlic breath and going bowling.
Mortality is the big topic at play in the album’s delicate opening track, “Voices From the Top of the Mountain (Sleepwalking Blues).” “When I was 13, one of my childhood friends and heroes committed suicide at the age of 17, and this deeply affected me — even still today,” Torres, now based in Austin and currently touring the West Coast, tells Flavorwire. “A couple years before I wrote this song, my grandfather passed after a hard fight with cancer. To me, this song is a result of me trying to come to terms with loving and losing people in life, and somehow paying tribute to them by keeping them alive in my memory.”
Below, Flavorwire is pleased to premiere Torres’ visceral “Voices From the Top of the Mountain” video, which was directed and conceptualized by Torres’ longtime visual collaborator, Brian Wiebe.
“The song describes several dichotomies, one of them being isolation versus community,” Torres continues. “This idea, I think, is brought out well by our heroine in the video. There is something to be said, too, about both the song and video’s representation of transforming pain and repression into joy and liberation. The video does a beautiful job in showing the gravitas of how one chooses to arrive at such a transformation.”