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Susanna and the Magic Orchestra: Melody Mountain

Norwegian songstress and Jaga Jazzist vet spin songwriting straw (and a few classics) into strange and luminous gold

Susanna and the Magic Orchestra

Melody Mountain

Label: Rune Grammofon
US Release Date: 2006-08-22
UK Release Date: 2005-04-25

The song begins with a series of carefully chosen organ notes, reverberating against a dead velvet silence. Against this somber background, Susanna Karolina Wallumrød slips in, her voice somewhere between eider down and crystal, soft at the edges but full of shivery, diamond-faceted light. The words are widely spaced, allowing for gentle commentary in keyboard arpeggios between the phrases, and the whole experience is so transfixingly strange that you may not notice until mid-way through that the song is familiar. It is Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Part" and yet it is not. It is something entirely other, more serene and more unearthly. If the angels met Ian Curtis as he made his crossing and if they were in a forgiving mood, they might sound just like this. The cut is one of ten superlatively beautiful covers by the Norwegian singer and her "Orchestra", actually one Morten Ovenild (of Jaga Jazzist, Shining and In the Country). Not surprisingly the artists are able to wring surpassing loveliness out of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (though it does raise eyebrows when they nearly wrest ownership of the song from Jeff Buckley). However, due to the sheer chilly grace of Wallumrød's voice, songs by AC/DC ("It's a Long Way to the Top"), KISS ("Crazy, Crazy Night") and Prince ("Condition of the Heart") are nearly as gorgeous. The disc closes with the church organ solemnity of Sandy Denny's "Fotheringay," a song so encased in mist and melancholy that even Susanna can hardly make it sadder...but she can make it more angelic and beautiful.


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