Susanna and the Magical Orchestra 3 Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Smouldering drama haunts this sparse, exquisitely furnished music.

Sid Smith 2009

In their relatively short time together, vocalist Susanna Wallumrød and keyboard player Morten Qvenild have elevated being languid to an art form.

As with their List of Lights and Bouys (2004) and their celebrated cover versions collection, Melody Mountain (2006), this new album continues the kind of chilled-out pace that makes continental drift seem like a flash in the pan.

Despite the glacial pace and muted pastel shades there’s a real smouldering drama as the clean lines of Wallumrød’s vocals haunt this sparse, exquisitely furnished music. The sleepy intimacy of her singing and taut diction gilds tracks such as Come On, Lost and the deceptively uplifting Someday with a genteel melancholy. Yet there’s also an inner steel that prevents her contribution from being akin to fey and ethereal items of set decoration.

Partly responsible for this are Morten Qvenild’s settings, in which the songs are carefully adorned with swathes of vintage synths, sparkling rather than showy embellishments and understated keyboard runs.

When not waving the baton of the Magical Orchestra, Qvenild is part of the minimalist ambient jazz outfit In The Country, and some of their prog-rock undertow can be discerned here.

The cover of Subdivisions by Rush is a typically sepia-tinged subversion, cannily removing the Canadian prog-rockers’ default pomp and power setting with something altogether more mysterious and subtle.

The other cover is Another Day by veteran UK folk institution, Roy Harper. This is less of a surprise choice. Although stylistically very different, what Wallumrød and Harper share is that rapture at being utterly lost within a phrase or heartfelt extemporisation. The almost obsessive sense of focus found in Susanna’s voice in this classic song of two people gone wrong and awry provides a poignant highpoint in an album already brimming with grace and oddly emotive power.

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