Written in Switzerland and recorded among his musical peers in the Midwestern college town of Athens, Ohio, Adam Torres' compelling debut, Nostra Nova, initially saw the light of day as a very limited D.I.Y. release in 2006. At the time, Torres was a 20-year-old undergrad with a predilection for the writings of Carl Jung and a passion for smartly orchestrated indie folk with an intellectual bent. While his debut was widely admired by friends and fans of the local music scene, it was woefully under-promoted and its momentum quickly stalled as Torres' solo work took a backseat to his role as guitarist for rising indie folk heroes Southeast Engine. He left both Athens and Southeast Engine in 2008, spending a number of years living in Ecuador; he didn't emerge again until 2012, when a small cassette label out of Washington, D.C. released a self-titled set of eerie, acoustic demos he'd made during his travels abroad. By the time he'd relocated to Austin, Texas in 2014, Nostra Nova had grown a somewhat historic and cultish patina among those who'd actually gotten to hear it and nearly a decade later, respected Ohio-based indie Misra Records finally gave the album its first proper release in April 2015. In his unusual, affected warble, Torres delivers sprawling chamber folk epics about desperate criminals ("Breakneck Jane's Fifteen Minute Escape"), lonesome lovers ("Alone Together"), and mortality ("Voices from the Top of the Mountain"), covering a lot of ground with his young intellect and wide musical scope. Behind his intimate fingerpicked guitar, a cast of mid-2000s Athens musicians provide orchestrations that are often strikingly beautiful, like the harp sections on the opening cut, or just plain difficult, like the hissing drums and dissonant bee-sting guitars of "The Butlers and Their Maids." The organ-led band arrangements on the excellent, lyricless "El Vuelo de la Paloma" are vibrant and spirited, and he channels the lo-fi strumming crunch of Neutral Milk Hotel on "Rosemarie." There are freak-folk songs, noisy indie, gentle ballads, and an overall kitchen-sink feeling of flooding too many disparate ideas into too small a space, which sometimes works against the album. Torres' voice, too, is so stylized, especially when he reaches into his falsetto, that it tends to get in the way of the material, and yet all of this is also part of the Nostra Nova's charm. An artist only gets to make their first album once, and these ten songs capture the fevered spirit of discovery and experimentation that can only come from delivering your first big artistic statement with a group of like-minded friends in a community that supports it. Whether in 2006 or 2015, Nostra Nova is a wholly engaging listen.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger