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February 24, 2005
The faerie is thirsty
By Helene Poitras
[translated from French by Melissa West]
Tori Amos is still as enigmatic and bright...but more luminous than ever before. She delivers now a ninth album, The Beekeeper, and a book that acts like an open window looking in on her mystery. All of this begs for an answer to a possible alchemy between sex and spirituality. Be aware, she's still on fire.
In the past, Tori Amos has written tormented music which she would sing like a female Trent Reznor, like an amazon bolted to her instrument. On these albums, she would pose for photos trapped in a box next to a miniscule piano, or as a Lilliputian laying down within a circle of inanimate objects; torn bird wing, dead branches, pieces of glass, eggs that have fallen from their nest, partridge feathers, fox teeth, dried butterflies, dirty beakers and light bulbs. On the cover of Boys for Pele, sitting on the porch of a gloomy decrepit shack, Tori grips a hunting rifle with virility or, in a more maternal aspect, kills time while suckling a piglet.
TORI LOSES THE BALL
Now smiling and luminous, Tori poses with fruit and high heel shoes that rain down on her in the booklet that accompanies the new album. Faced with our surprise she responds "we must give ourselves permission to change, my next album will be different from this one, and so on."
On Little Earthquakes, her first album and the highest selling to this day, Tori Amos proceeded into a hostile place regardless of the bowling ball in her stomach and the desert in her moth. Remember Crucify, that bitter-sweet poem that marked her first steps on a demanding way of the cross. Well that bowling ball in her stomach has disintegrated, or has it? : "I was 26 years old, today I'm 41. If that bowling ball was still present, it would be a little pathetic because it would mean that I haven't grown throughout my music...The bowling ball comes back sometimes, but I know now how to transmute it."
But be careful, things aren't always what they appear to be, because that beautiful ripe fruit spinning around Tori are "those we will have to eat to gain knowledge, even if it means getting kicked out of paradise" says Myra Ellen, of her real name.
TORI EATS THE FRUIT
The Beekeeper comes out at the same time as a book that will please many toriphiles. Tori Amos Piece by Piece is a bible signed Ann Powers, rock critic for the New York Times. On this ninth album, the minister's daughter raises her voice- and what a voice, recognisable from the first clear and rounded note -to protest against the turning around of biblical references. "I was raised in a very religious family. Every day, while watching the news, I see parables being twisted in the name of all sorts of causes that have nothing to do with the idea of freedom and democracy. It's the minister's daughter in me that has stood up to say "Hey! Wait a minute!" From that realisation was born a theme, then new songs started to visit me, and the core of the album came to me very clearly. So I turned to the mother of God who said to me "you are not in the garden of original sin, you are in the garden of original sin-suality. And to get to that higher level of conscience with the goal of benefiting your daughter's generation, you must eat the forbidden fruit." The entire album turns around the idea of reuniting the spiritual and the sensual." Wow, mystical!
TORI IS NOT A WITCH
As we've all noticed, Tori expresses herself in a way as complex as the way she expresses herself in her songs, in a cryptic language, symbolic and intuitive, giving the impression that she's both very attentive and completely elsewhere at the same time. Isn't it precisely that secret, intimate mythology, that way of inventing a legend and a universe that is fascinating? What role does the bee play? "Bees have been on this planet for 44 million years, they are one of the oldest creatures still living among us today, they are a symbol of abundance, and this album is precisely the story of a woman who finds abundance and receives it. The bee is also a very strong sexual symbol even in the deepest Christian concepts, from the time when women were killed for showing a certain sexual power. These women were called witches because they were passionate creatures. You and I wouldn't have been around for very long, we'd have been killed...Do you realise that no female prophet - and there have been many - has made it through history?"
The result is an outright feministic and mature album, one of whose loveliest moments is "Sweet the Sting", a sexy sweet song written with a pen dipped in honey: "there's sensuality in this song that I find delicious, a reunion of the masculine and the feminine, translated in music when the piano meets the Hammond B3 organ. It's a definition of sexuality that has nothing to do with pornography and abuse, nor with the puritan concept of procreation given by extreme right-wingers. I explore the essence of the sacred prostitute. Why can't she bee a mother, a wife, a mistress and fulfill the needs of her loved ones? Why must she stay trapped in just one role?"
The faeries are still thirsty. Give a glass of (holy) water to Tori.
A WOMAN AND HER PIANO
From the rib of Tori Amos was born a piano. She goes into a trans-like state when she gets near one, has been playing since the beginning of time, straddling her bench, feverish, undulating, transported. We wanted to know the inner workings of the symbiosis between herself and her darling instrument. "I have become an extension of the piano, and the piano an extension of me. You have to be in a certain state to experience this, to let it happen. Many people couldn't deal with that because it's out of their control, it possesses you. You must, in a way, give yourself, abandon yourself."
TIME GOES BY
Same crimson hair, same crooked smile, same heart shaped lips to tell her stories, sometimes delicate, sometimes a little rough, same twinkle in her eye, but the years have gone by: "When I was in my early 20's, I admired creators like Georgia O'Keefe (painter who drew flowers that looked like female genitalia), capable of creating until they were in their 80's, continually evolving, never staying stuck in the role of the desperate girl who would wants to go back to the way things were before."
TORI AND HER BOOK
Why a Tori-bible at this point in time? "Well... When an editor comes to you and you're not doing anything, they could choose to do something with you as a subject anyhow! I took the chance to open a window on my artistic process and if it can inspire others in their own process then great. The idea was to encourage creative forces."
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