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Sensory overload on Amos’s ‘Hunters’

(Victor De Mello)
By Marc Hirsh
Globe Correspondent / September 20, 2011

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Tori Amos’s 12th studio album might not be the best of her career, but it’s certainly the bassooniest. Diving headfirst into the instrumentation and compositional approach of classical music, “Night of Hunters’’ hews closer to “Peter and the Wolf’’ than “Little Earthquakes,’’ as dark woodwinds constantly honk and erupt through the symphonic settings of Amos’s songs. Not for nothing is this her first outing on the influential classical label Deutsche Grammophon.

The 72-minute result feels less like an opera than a ballet with lyrics standing in for the dancing. The story line involves shape-shifting spirit guides and Irish time travel to a land of ancient gods, all dismayingly in the service of what is at its core the tale of a bad breakup. If a songwriter goes all out with talk of fire muses, glass forests, and ancient tree alphabets, perhaps it shouldn’t be because she’s sad about a boy.

If it all seems a bit silly to you, there’s a good chance you haven’t made it this far with Amos, anyway. Even so, there’s a brief run midway through - from “Job’s Coffin’’ (hooked by a gorgeously melodic vocal provided by her 10-year-old daughter, Natashya Hawley) to “Edge of the Moon’’ - where Amos’s ambition settles a bit, and the other instruments serve her piano rather than each chattering along in its own conversation.

But the bulk of the album’s melodies and arrangements are too busily discursive to hum after the fact, making it tough for “Night of Hunters’’ to do what Amos set out to do: haunt the listener. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “Job’s Coffin’’

Tori Amos performs at the Orpheum Theatre on Dec. 6.