Anyone who has seen Susanne Sundfør’s heart wrenching version of Ola Paux "Mitt Lille Land” at the memorial ceremony for those who lost their lives in the July attacks, knows that she doesn’t need the density of multiple layers of synthesizers and beats to underline her beautiful voice.
So here we have "Ten Love Songs” her sixth release if you count the remake of her first and the side project "A Night at Salle Pleyel”. With "The Brothel” (2010) she started working with Jaga Jazzist’s Lars Horntveth on production, a relationship which has continued through her 2012 release "The Silicone Veil” Each of these albums have evolved and moved forward. Both these albums have the strings of the Trondheim Soloists featured, particularly on the instrumental pieces " As I Walked out One Evening” (The Brothel) and "Meditations in an Emergency” (The Silicone Veil).
Ten Love Songs is very much a leap forward vocally and musically. There are no interludes, but instead we have some segues and codas. Anne Frank called her diary a "bundle of contradictions” which is good analogy for Ten Love Songs. For this reason it is a perplexing collection of love songs about loss, yet it is littered with upbeat pop songs that could easily make the charts on their own. The album opens with Darlings, quietly enough with harmonium and yearning lyrics "We Thought Love Would Change Our Names/ And Free Us From Our Earthly Chains” could be called a kind of anthem of despair. This ends with a very brief sparkling coda. Accelerate unleashes itself with a loud rasping mutated synth beat with powerful vocals with a Bach-like church organ coming in towards the end. The music caries on for a short while and slows momentarily before it changes rhythm seamlessly going into Fade Away (which was also the first single release) this sounds like something from the 80’s. Silencer (co-produced by Lars Horntveth) follows and is a moment of calmness with very soft vocals with spiralling synths, featuring Anthony Gonzales on Spanish guitar, the strings of the Trondheim Soloists entering to bring it to a quiet conclusion. Kamikaze finds her asking "Did you ever feel your heart broken/Did you ever feel it’s the end of the world?” which to some might seem a tad banal, but the infectious disco-tempo chorus marks a turnaround in the song’s tone. There is then a brief pause and then another coda, this time for solo Harpsichord. Memorial, with additional production by Anthony Gonzales, is a real odyssey and reaches symphonic proportions in the second half. Running at just over ten minutes, this is the centre-piece of the album. A harmony of soft voices followed by dramatic lyrics "Hope you’ll come back again. Even though I know you are heartless ‘cause you took off my dress/And you never put it on again” then flows in to adagio strings with underlying piano which wanders into the minimalist world of Philip Glass, and then the strings die down briefly to piano arpeggios. Delirious starts with scary and eerie strings followed by deep bass synths and then leaps straight into dance mode, with layers of strong vocals: " I love the Pain//I love the game/Come into my arms/Come into my arms/you say that I’m delirious/But I’m not the one holding the gun” Slowly (additional production by Röyksopp) is just as the title implies, to start with; with beautiful vocals, it travels into pure disco and is very ABBA like. Trust Me is very slow with disturbing mantra/vocals "Nothing’s ever easy /But baby you can trust me/Send for the saint and send for the doctor/And save yourself” Insects ends the album and will totally alienate listeners hungry for a chorus to hum along to. Which underlines the mystery of Ten Love Songs.
Drink it up!
It would be difficult to find a more extraordinary release in 2015. Cosmic!