Susanna Wallumrød is often referred to as a Norwegian Chan Marshall. Her previous album, as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, titled Melody Mountain, was compared to The Covers Record, and in a lot of ways, the parallels are apt. Walllumrød, like Marshall, has a particular talent for melancholy, stripped-down songwriting, taking a song right to its barest essence without regard for unnecessary embellishment. Yet while Marshall is abrasive on albums like What Would The Community Think? or soulful and sultry on The Greatest, Susanna feels more fluid and less steeped in Southern rhythm & blues or American indie rock. In essence, they may be similar, but in execution, they’re two very different artists.
Susanna’s new album Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos, which sounds like a title more appropriate for a glitch IDM release, is a loose and fluid work that finds each song floating weightlessly, with no percussion to ground or hold it back. In a way, it’s much more along the lines of an album such as Astral Weeks in that its compositions are almost more jazz-like in nature, breathing and flowing without the constraints of rigid pop structures. Yet it’s much more sparse than that, Susanna’s voice being the primary driving force behind each song. And what a gorgeous voice it is. Were it not for her sweet, breathy coo, many of these songs would hardly exist, their arrangements so naked and unfussed. It’s also a very slow album, which may detract the more impatient listeners, but that’s their loss really. The changes and peaks are subtle, but they sink slowly into the listener’s subconscious, gently caressing one’s emotions with delicate care.
As she is a Norwegian songwriter, there’s a chill to Susanna’s music that reflects her Northern clime, a glacial gracefulness that permeates each glistening, heart-wrenching note. Each moment of Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos is beautiful and pure, and worth the patience required for each slowly cascading movement. You know, she doesn’t really sound much like Cat Power at all, come to think of it, because as an artist, Susanna is a truly unique voice.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.