susanne sundfør

Music For People In Trouble

Released: 8th September 2017

Huge in her native Norway, where her albums regularly top the charts, Susanne Sundfør is perhaps now best known in the UK for her part in last month’s BBC Prom celebrating Scott Walker. However, her recent performance on Newsnight, a solo reimagining of Walker’s On Your Own Again, is more indicative of the spectral charms of her sixth album.

While her last record, 2015’s Ten Love Songs, was characterised by icy electro-pop, Music For People In Trouble is warmer and much quieter: Mantra and Reincarnation are hushed, with picked nylon-string guitar, echoing pedal steel and Sundfør’s vocals, elastic like Joanna Newsom’s and twangy like Dolly Parton’s, giving the impression of a kind of cosmic Nordic country music. Sundfør shows off her operatically trained voice on the syrupy Good Luck Bad Luck – it’s impressive, but not really needed here.

Music For People In Trouble works best when it’s bravest, however, as on the eight-minute The Sound Of War. Beginning with the sound of a mountain stream and all manner of bird calls, it blossoms out into a modern madrigal, with lute-like guitar and Sundfør’s voice restrained and husky. About halfway through, it falls away to leave a hellish, industrial synth drone, reminiscent of the textures of The Knife’s Shaking The Habitual, or the ambient sound design of a David Lynch soundtrack. Elsewhere, Sundfør embraces musique concrète on the title track, and enlists John Grant to help out on the closing Mountaineers, which rises to an ecstatic, gospel-tinged climax.

The amount of experimentation here is testament to the ambition on show: Sundfør has again proven herself one of the most talented and shape-shifting singer-songwriters working today.

Tom Pinnock

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