The dark, atmospheric music created by Susanna and the Magical Orchestra could conceivably be drawn from Oslo in the wintertime, when the sun’s rays are most scant. Susanna Karolina Wallumrød succeeds in filling the long stretches of night with her sparse, sometimes haunting arrangements. The “orchestra” part of the name is a bit misleading, as there is only one other member. While Susanna provides the vocals Morten Qvenild functions as her predominant musician, backing up her ghostly singing with combinations of organ, synth and piano.
The subterranean recesses of Le Poisson Rouge were an appropriate location for Susanna’s Tuesday night NYC performance, a mix of original tunes as well as other people’s songs. Approximately 50 people came out, though a number of them may have been associated with opening band, Elk City. Except for some club music blaring from LPR’s other room, the audience responded warmly and the somber show went off without a hitch.
Susanna opened with her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, then went into an AC/DC tune before her first original, “Guiding Star”, from her latest album, 3. Accompanied by minimal lighting, Susanna’s voice was unsettling, gnawing under one’s skin as the music echoed throughout the room. The dynamics changed soon after, but only for one song. For their dance tune, “Palpatine’s Dream”, inspired by the devious Sith Lord, Qvenild beckoned folks to fill the space in front of the stage, though none took him up
on it. The song’s throbbing rhythm created some distance from the other songs, but still maintained an eeriness.
Other famous artists were covered throughout the night, including Rush and Prince (“Condition of
the Heart”), Joy Division and Leonard Cohen. (Many of these covers were from 2006’s,
Melody Mountain). “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was an apt choice as Susanna conveyed her mournful acceptance of the title’s fact. Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was a splendid closer, though
the permeating club music interfered a bit. Still, Susanna created a beautiful and poignant rendition, better then the band’s released version and far better than many other covers. In between those two was the gorgeous “Someday”, evoking the vast expanses of space. As she sang “I’m flying/to other galaxies”, Susanna reminded the audience that even during the darkest of nights, the stars still shine bright.