With a career that's spanned over a decade, Norwegian born Susanna Wallumrød has produced many projects surrounded by an aura of serene beauty. From the sombre art pop of Flower of Evil to the delicate chamber folk of If Grief Could Wait with Giovanna Pessi, her records are often as bleak as they are ethereal. Her finest work to date perhaps stands as 2014's collaboration with Jenny Hval, Meshes of Voice, a stunning project that helped cement both artists as two of the finest songwriters and voices in recent years.
An attraction to dramatic storytelling and a mining of stateside vinyl stores has resulted in Go Dig My Grave, a collection of ten tracks produced by Susanna and Deathprod that incorporates Jean Ritchie's Appalachian folk, French poetry, English opera, and yet more Joy Division. It begins with Elizabeth Cotten's "Freight Train", a modestly beautiful contemplation of death and spatiality, remarkable because it was written in her teens and not recorded until she was in her 60s. The lyrics have a virtuous innocence that carried through into her later years, and here they retain the romance - if not the charm - of Cotten's original: "Freight train, freight train, run so fast / Freight train, freight train, run so fast / Please don't tell what train I'm on / They won't know what route I'm going".
If one were to put together a list of songs that most discerning music lovers would never want to hear covered again, Leonard Cohen's endlessly battered "Hallelujah" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" would surely contend for the top spots. It is almost impressive, then, that in 2006 Norwegian vocalist Susanna Wallumrød had a crack at both on Melody Mountain, her second album with keyboard player Morten Qvenild as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. Unfortunately, her versions of both songs slowed down the originals to a pained crawl, leaving them devoid of any spark.
For an artist, including cover versions on an album always comes with an element of risk. Get them right and new light can be cleverly projected on to familiar songs, and you can reveal hitherto unappreciated influences in the process. Get them wrong and you risk diluting the overall strength of an album or, worse, making you look too predictable or simply misjudged.