Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfør has been active in the industry for almost 20 years, and has been successful for almost as long. Her debut album in 2007 garnered commercial and critical success in her home country, while her 2015 release Ten Love Songs launched her music into the rest of the world, and led her to working with artists such as M83. After six years, she has returned with new album blómi.
Opener oro volu sets a sombre mood, the voice note recording creating a cacophony of feedback and room noise as Susanne reads a poetic piece. The spoken word piece morphs into an abstract arrangement of samples, synths, delayed vocals, and snippets of instruments. It’s an eery, psychedelic piece that leads starkly into ashera’s song. The first true sign of melody appears as piano and voice meld over atmospheric sounds. Somewhere between Bach and Bjork, Susanne’s heavily vocal carry the evolving piece to its fairytale conclusion. blómi continues the balladry, introducing a more familiar singer-songwriter structure complete with drums and sax. The spacious mix gives Susanne’s vocal the presence it needs to tell the story, the lyrics suggesting that Susanne is trying to console someone after the loss of a loved one; “the ladies in black will wear white again”.
Saxophone shines through in many of the tracks, such as fare thee well, which concludes in a minute long solo. rūnā’s acoustic guitars and sax call to mind Joni Mitchell, the striped back arrangement transitioning into a lofty, harmony-led midsection. leikara ljóo layers hand claps, stomps, and harmony build to a mountainous conclusion, ending in reverb-drenched tails before returning briefly with a folky violin melody. sānnu yārru lī finds Susanne speaking in her native tongue over a jagged rhythm, interspersed by flutes, while oro hjartans concludes the album in the similar way to how it all started, abstractly. Tonal descending synths end with Susanne speaking the beautiful passage: “If the heart has a word; what would it be?; and sitting with this, I’ve found; that the word in the heart is yes; It’s yes; to everything”. Not many album finales hit with quite the same gravitas as this.
blómi is a competent and beautiful album. Its intricate arrangements, surprising left turns, and excellent lyricism shape it into being one of the most fulfilling listens possible. Susanne’s approaches to structure allow every song to be more intriguing than the last, and above it all her angelic voice completes the layer of emotion needed to bring these tales to life.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.