Spiritual conflict and existential dread are central themes in Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna’s poetic 11th album. “Black is where my soul lives,” she sings on the 22-song opus, before delving into the darkness of her psyche and resurfacing with clarity and freedom (“Sacred Revolution”). The short, melodically complex songs cohere into an often stunningly moving suite. Influenced by such art-pop predecessors as Jane Siberry and Kate Bush, Susanna seamlessly alternates between abstraction and accessibility. Her nuanced production builds off a piano base with an expansive collage of electronics, strings, synths, and horns. Tremulously anticipating emotional annihilation (“We will be swallowed by the waves”), she never loses forbearance or her intimate connection to the universe (“I belong to the sea”). A menacing “This/Phenomena” — seemingly out of a David Lynch nightmare — temporarily shifts the record’s trajectory with distorted vocals coursing through a wave of pulsing bass and ambient effects. “Death Hanging,” a gorgeous meditation on death’s inevitability, reminds us that such great beauty helps make our demise bearable.
ESSENTIAL “Death Hanging”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.