Release Date: Apr 22, 2016
Record label: Susannasonata
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Susanna has always been a remarkably versatile artist, mixing jazz, electronic, pop, and avant-garde music in inspired combinations many other performers would never attempt. She brings a little of everything she's done in the past to Triangle, uniting those disparate creative strands as she explores spirituality and superstition. Susanna composed, arranged, produced, and recorded the album on her own in Oslo and Los Angeles, and the album's 22 songs are as distinct as they are impressionistic.
It takes a certain level of fame to drop your surname and join that select group of people known just by their first names. Kylie, Cheryl, Adele – you may quibble about their levels of talent, but everyone knows who they are. Susanna may not have quite reached that level of fame (in the UK at least) but she’s certainly put the hours in. Over the past nine years, Susanna Wallumrød (for it is her) has been one of the most prolific artists in her native Norway.
On her eleventh sole studio album Triangle, Susanna (previously of/as/with the Magical Orchestra) takes no half measures. The Norwegian goes all out in exploring spirituality in its broadest sense, through a variety of styles and tones from electro-pop, to twisted and distorted vocal lines and short and echoing laments. The end result, in its entirety, is gigantic.
I often find it easiest to make realizations about the world when I’m not struggling so much to be a part of it in that moment. This isn’t a new concept. People have long sought ways to gain clarity through meditation or isolation or even just by spending a day at home by yourself. Essentially it all comes down to giving yourself a moment to think, uninterrupted by societies irrevocable call.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna Wallumrød’s career has taken many forms. With her project Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, she made several albums of art-pop composed enough to be interesting yet accessible enough for TV syncs. One might also know her for her deconstructed covers of pop songs akin to those of Stina Nordenstam or Cat Power, or perhaps for her stint of making straightforward alt-rock—on 2011’s underrated Jeg vil hjem til menneskene, which was situated somewhere between jazz and grunge.
As is so often the case with double-albums, the main problem with Triangle is its length. Chop it in half and you would have an engaging blend of Susanna’s personality spliced with large dollops of Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. But at over 70 minutes, it comes across as one-paced and simply doesn’t sustain interest for long enough. This is the Norwegian’s 11th album though and she certainly knows how to conjure atmosphere, successfully generating a singular mood of existential darkness.
For priests, magicians, soothsayers and irritating footballers throughout history, the implementation of specific rites in the form of ritual was, and still is, considered essential for appeasing the gods and harnessing those invisible natural forces that govern the lives of men. From the taking of communion at church on a Sunday morning to the methodical disposal of a sacrificial bull's body in Minoan Crete, we as a species feel a deep urge to practise these recurrent tasks in an attempt to tap into the cyclical nature of the world we inhabit, to exert some influence over such unalterable phenomena as the changing of the seasons, the coming of the rains and the movement of the tides. Even now, when we live in an enlightened age where the week's weather forecast is readily available from the same smartphone that houses your secret copy of the Kim Kardashian game, the draw of ritual and superstition can exert a powerful effect on the human psyche.
Spiritual conflict and existential dread are central themes in Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna’s poetic 11th album. “Black is where my soul lives,” she sings on the 22-song opus, before delving into the darkness of her psyche and resurfacing with clarity and freedom (“Sacred Revolution”). The short, melodically complex songs cohere into an often stunningly moving suite.