Music can sometimes puzzle us, for every once in a while it breaks open the frames of mind that we tend to think it strives to fill. When something beautiful transcends the mental category of beauty it is highly bewildering, for we experience being taken beyond beauty by beauty itself, into something uncanny and disturbing. When this happens it is art of a completely different depth and magnitude, for it discloses the smallness of the mind and the vastness beyond. Very rare is this, but Susanna Wallumrød is an artist who consistently speaks along such lines of delimitation.
Until now it has been in collaboration with Morten Qvenild in Susanna and the Magical Orchestra that we have heard her. The duo has released two records: the fantastic debut List of Lights and Buoys from 2004 and last year’s Melody Mountain.
List of Lights and Buoys; it is a musical experience hard to describe, for more than anything it transports the listener to the edge of emotion, and over it, so that the emotion becomes alien yet intense at the same time. The utmost quiet of the entire recording, the sparseness of sound, the intensity and immeasurable nearness combined with some cosmic quality draws the mind to the most complex of human perspectives. In Camus’ words suicide is that which is most terrible and most beautiful at the same time, terrible because it is also beautiful, beautiful because it is the omnipresent, utmost possibility of freedom.
The innermost moving quality of the music of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, the ungraspable beauty and the anxiety that accommodates it, confronts the listener with just this: that what is most beautiful transcends safety: love and death are not far apart.
The main property of the music is unquestionably Susanna’s voice; for in it are timbres we do not readily grasp or understand. It is a voice somehow indeterminable by human faculty. It addresses directly some part of us we simply do not know. Her voice has been called “unpolluted as a mountain stream”, yet it is not simply crystalline and pure. There is something much deeper in it, and truthful, and Wallumrød as an ability to make every note uniquely her own. The almost Gnostic quality of her singing is perfectly matched by Qvenild’s instrumentation, which is, for the most part, barely present. Single aural pressure points, simple dark phrases and sweeps velvety or frosty; the music seems to echo within Wallumrød’s voice itself. It is a majestic and mournful and utterly intense way of making music.
On List of Lights and Buoys nine of the eleven songs were written by the duo, and there are songs on it already confined to the western canon. On the follow-up, Melody Mountain from 2006, the duo opted for cover songs exclusively. And many of them were well known favorites from across the spectrum of genres, from Joy division to AC/DC. But all of the songs were completely transformed and infused with that transcendent quality that the duo achieves when stripping music to the bones, and breaking them to expose some hitherto unsavoured marrow.
Reviews both Norwegian and international have been as extraordinary as the music. From across the world critics spoke in a unison voice about “List”; here was music one almost did not know could be made. And regarding Melody Mountain the acclaim was of equal character. The Independent (UK) summed it up: “If you thought the best had already come and gone, try this.”
Now Susanna is on her own with an album enigmatically entitled “Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos.” Her label, Rune Grammofon presents it thus:
For her solo debut Susanna Wallumrød has written the 12 highly personal songs that make up this beautiful and quite extraordinary album. In these fast and restless times of instant entertainment and shortcuts to possible success, it’s a rare treat to witness a young and genuinely talented singer and writer that operates to such a degree outside trends and fashions. We are delighted with this lovely addition to the catalogue, a work of uncompromising dedication inviting us to reflect and to listen. Susanna plays piano and guitar, guests include her brother Christian Wallumrød (piano), Magical Orchestra partner Morten Qvenild (piano, synth), Big Bang leader Øystein Greni (guitar), Ola Fløttum (guitar) from The White Birch, Pål Hausken (drums) from In The Country, Helge Sten (guitar, mellotron), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), Barbara Buchholz (theremin) and Giovanna Pessi (harp).
The album is produced by Deathprod.
The album will be out on Monday august 20th.
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