Album: Susanne Sundfør – “The Brothel” (2010)

Anyone listening to me bleating away this year might know that I very happily discovered Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør. Kicking off 2013 by hearing her collaboration with Röyksopp, “Running to the sea“, it took me some time, even missing her M83 collaboration “Oblivion” in the credits of the film of the same name, before I spotted her 2012 album “The Silicone Veil” in a bargain bin.

susanne sundfor the brothelThat album was magnificent, mixing bits of my favourite female singer-songwriters with dark and minimal electronic production, and I was soon a member of Team Sundfør. But since that was her latest album, I had no choice but to go back through the mists of time to her previous album “The Brothel”. Did it live up to expectations though?

08 The Brothel – A very eerie first minute blossoms into a mournful little track, presumably about … well you can imagine. I love the richness of her voice; parts of it sound like Tori Amos, others like Beth Orton, at least that gets you in the vicinity of what she sounds like. Herself on backing vocals gives interesting little feature points. I didn’t really expect it to reach a crescendo at the end of the fourth minute – there’s even a lovely little epilogue at the end, gorgeous.

08 Lilith – That squelchy electro production arrives on the scene to open this one. I like that sort of staggering rhythm to it, especially when it suddenly bursts into life after the first minute. She’s got a great energy, that sort of creepy crawling sound to the more sexually-charged parts.

07 Black Widow – I could see some people being left a bit cold here, there’s a lot of acapella in there, a few flourishes of piano. That ghostly waltz from the halfway mark is wonderful though, I could imagine that as a soundtrack piece (maybe that’s a horrible thing to say). Can’t say it’s my favourite track, it’s a bit hard to pin it down, but I like it all the same.

06 It’s all gone tomorrow – If I was going to wheel in comparisons here, some of this – particularly the extended instrumental section – I’d point to “Selmasongs“-era Björk and “Night of Hunters“-era Tori. It’s a pretty busy track, lots going on in the production. I’m not sure I think it adds too much to it, it’s hard to pin the melodic vocals down against such a shuddering and industrial backing track.

07 Knights of Noir – Much like the title track, there’s little to smile about in this one, quite maudlin with Susanne haunting us with a harmonic choir popping in from time to time, and some spooky production. Though in a strange way this feels like the closest I’ve heard to the next album’s sound. Those machine-gun beats in the last act come as a bit of a surprise.

08 Turkish Delight – Not a surprise to see this listed as one of the singles, definitely one of the more accessible moments of the album. I’m rubbish at knowing what songs are about usually, but this MUST be about the Witch from Chronicles of Narnia, right? Turkish delight, eternal winter etc. right? Love the string accompaniment here, and while the verses don’t do so much for me for the most part, the bridges are great.

09 As I walked out one evening – On the Björk-o-meter this has “Vespertine” vibes. It’s a very chilly, glassy Nordic instrumental. Just knowing she’s from Norway colours my idea of this, I can imagine a crisp Winter’s night in some Arctic forest, very evocative. While I’m not sure this album scales the heights of “The Silicone Veil”, I certainly listen out for this track.

06 O Master – Maybe writing this so late at night was a mistake, I had a big dinner. Though I love her tone of voice, this one drags a little bit. Those unstable beats add a bit of a feature but turn into a bit of a headache by the end.

07 Lullaby – I think this album is starting to loosen its grip a bit, the first 90 seconds are a bit leaden and sleepy, but suddenly this crisp, clonky beat kicks in. It’s a bit of a cheap stunt but it sort of pays off. I just realised I have described a song called “Lullaby” as sleepy. Maybe it’s doing its job brilliantly!

07 Father Father – One last serving of baroque, spooky ambience to finish the album off. A choral confessional suits her voice and the general feel of the album, it’s even got a fairly obvious melodic hook in there. Very old-fashioned tune behind all the dressing, it’s sort of hypnotic without resorting to anything flashy.

OK well it didn’t stand much of a chance of measuring up to “The Silicone Veil”, which I suppose puts Susanne in good stead for her next album. It’s got her wonderful voice, but I think the production doesn’t always work in her favour. On occasion it feels like a bit of a cheap trick to give a feature to an otherwise fairly uneventful track.

As I said, I don’t feel like there’s really a killer track in there for me, but as a coherent album there’s plenty right about it.

Keepers for the iPod: The Brothel, Lilith, Turkish Delight, As I walked out one evening



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