Norway - Full Moon 242 - 05/21/16
From the breezy, yet warm shores of mystics and elf power comes Triangle, Susanna's eleventh (?) album in total (counting her three albums released as Susanna & the Magical Orchestra,
2004-2009, as well as her collaboration with Jenny Hval on Meshes of Voice, 2014). Triangle is a massive piece of work holding 22 tracks (running almost
for 70 minutes) from Susanna's almost sacral, ghost like world. To quote the press sheet, Triangle is 'soul music for lost souls.'
Triangle is Susanna's first solo album since 2012's Wild Dog and it has been promoted through two singles; "Burning Sea" and "Hole". Many of the songs were written/sketched in Los
Angeles (but mainly recorded by Susanna in Sonata Studios Oslo, Norway) and the album features musical contributions from a couple of American artists; cellist Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen
Money) and singer/guitar player Emmett Kelly (of The Cairo Gang), plus a number of Norwegian players from bands/acts like Supersilent (featuring her spouse Helge Sten, a.k.a. Deathprod), Broen
(Anja Lauvdal, Hans Hulbækmo, and Heida K.J. Mobeck - Lauvdal and Hulbækmo are also members of the group Moskus), Splashgirl and the duo Sudan
Dudan. About the song "Burning Sea", Susanna has said it's about 'the experience of giving in to something, surrender, and feeling trapped at the
same time, both wonderful and dangerous'. Which can be said about Triangle as well: It is wonderful and dangerous at the same time.
I dropped 'sacral' as a description of the songs, the sound, Even though I'm not sure if this album, these songs are of a religious nature, here are song titles like "Holy / Sacred",
"Before The Alter", "Shepherd" and "In The Need Of A Shepherd", "For My Sins", "Sacred Revolution" and "Born Again". The 'danger part' of the album can show titles like "Fear And Terror",
"Hole", "Decomposing", and "Death Hanging". And, if you're of the ones thinking of the watery element like something scary with all its currents and under-currents, here are songs called
"Burning Sea", "Under Water" and "Ebb And Flow". Triangle might be a conceptual album dealing with the four classical, universal elements of ancient philosophy and culture: Earth.
Water. Air. Fire (here's even a song called "The Fire"). Alternatively, five if you are counting the fluid, see-through Aether. The void. The Quintessence.
'Nothing is holy, nothing is sacred...', Susanna sings on the opening "Holy / Sacred", and the magic journey begins. The soundscapes are stripped and naked, with Susanna's vocals at the
centre of things. Of course. Her superb voice which has (according to the label) 'become ever more versatile and fluid', and can be compared
to or recalling (at times) 'Kate Bush, the Laurel Canyon balladry of Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro, or the acrobatics of the Cocteau Twins' Liz Fraser.'
What can be said is that Triangle sounds like old folk hymns put in a modern setting, without losing their (its) deep, deep roots. The fine ballad "Under Water" is among the best
tracks from the album (along with the intricate "Decomposing" plus a handful of other songs), while "Burning Sea" is both fascinating as well as scary with its underwaterish, whale sound like
intro and backdrop. "This / Phenomena" is another example of a song sounding dangerous as well as wonderful. Wonderfully dangerous, or dangerously wonderful. It's hard to tell where one thing
stops and the other thing starts. The title track is another beautiful song; it is another piano ballad with a discreet, underlying noise threat. It is followed by the short, intermission like
instrumental called "Pyramid". "Ebb and Flow" ebbs and flows like the 22 songs do through a long album, which seems a bit 'difficult' as I glance out my window seeing the day more and more
bathed in sun, because this is not a sunny album. That said, some of the songs feels like meeting rays of light shimmering through the water as you're coming up for air, the few seconds (or
metres) before surfacing from a deep dive in the sea. "Hole" seems (sounds) almost like a (regular) pop song, as is "In The Need Of A Shepherd". "Death Hanging" is another strong track. I
recall hearing it during last year's re-release of Melody Mountain with a stunning gig inside the Fresco painted 'tomb-room', or mausoleum at Emanuel
Vigeland's Museum, Oslo. "Death Hanging" is not a brand new song as it was written in 2012 (the song was released in 2013 as a recording together with Siri Nilsen and Susanne Sundfør
from the 2012 ØYA festival), but it sits quite perfectly with the rest of the songs on this album. To paraphrase Will Oldham/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy: I see and hear a darkness. However,
I also sense some lightness. Again, swim to the surface with Triangle as a lifebuoy to meet the warming, nourishing sunbeams. Triangle holds harsh songs, mild songs, rugged songs,
beautiful songs, scary songs, bleak songs, colourful songs. Music from all over an impressing wide range of songwriting. Songs of lights and buoys.
Copyright © 2016 Håvard Oppøyen