Posted on May 22nd 2012 01:38 am
Rune Grammofon 2012
10 Tracks. 35mins01secs
With or without her Magical Orchestra, the duo she formed with Morten Qvenild almost ten years ago, Susanna Wallumrød has built quite an odd catalogue of material both original and, most prominently quite unfortunately, covers. Whilst the first Susanna & The Magical Orchestra album only contained two (she famously revisited Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Leonard Bernstein’s Who Am I), the pair’s second saw them take on anyone from Depeche Mode, Joy Division and Leonard Cohen to Prince or AC/DC and indiscriminately apply their ultra sensitive pop onto them. This was far from being an entirely successful endeavour, and saw them risking to compromise some of the brilliant songwriting moments they had shows on their debut and becoming a predictably formulaic partnership. Wallumrød threw further doubts on her work with her second solo effort, on which she once again forwent her talent as a songwriter to interpret songs by Will Oldham, Nico, Sandy Denny, Roy Harper or Abba.
A quick look at the track listing of her third solo effort for Rune Grammofon, her fourth in total, would have anyone think she is once again up to her old tricks (Imagine, Lonely Heart); a listen however quickly dispels any doubt that Ms Wallumrød is here to deliver her own material and nothing else. The mood is suitably downtempo and delicately nuanced, but as was the case on Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos and Flower Of Evil, she is here surrounded by a fully developed formation, and this allows her to build her songs substantially more, by developing beautiful vocal harmonies (Freeze, Oh, I Am Stuck, Invitation) and exploring a wider musical scope. Although the mood is often subdued, their is a level of energy which has, until now, very much lacked in her work.
If the album opens in somewhat traditional Susanna Wallumrød style with the delicate Imagine (as we’ve established earlier, this has nothing to do with the John Lennon song), the tone becomes more vibrant with Freeze and the oddly disconcerting Rolling On Rolling Stone, at once a rather stripped down piece, supported by two-tone chords and drums, and an ambitious cosmic epic thanks to Helge Sten providing ‘space and beyond’. Electric guitars taint the ubiquitous pianos on Oh I Am Stuck, Wild Horse Wild Dog or Her Eye to render these more acrid and smoky, whilst Invitation is given a touch of country which serves it rather wonderfully well.
Wallumrød doesn’t quite turn her back to her more subtle song forms, as Starving Soul, There Is Nothing Funny About This or Lonely Heart demonstrate, but she appears here more confident and strong as a vocalist, giving even these an edge which she only hinted at in the past. Far from sounding out of place against some of the more elaborate pieces, these actually feel as if they fully belong there and are inherent part of the album’s narrative.
It is surely a shame that Susanna Wallumrød is often remembered more for the songs she has covered rather than for the ones she has written, as they are ultimately much more indicative of her talent as a musician and singer. Wild Dog is a confident record on which she appears most at ease, and deserves to be pursued much further.