Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady - Garden of Earthly Delights - - Soundblab

Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady - Garden of Earthly Delights

by Jeff Penczak Rating:8 Release Date:2019-02-22
Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady - Garden of Earthly Delights
Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady - Garden of Earthly Delights

 If that sounds like you’ve stumbled across musical siblings of The Revolutionary Army of The Infant Jesus, you’re not too far off. Norwegian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Susanna Wallumrød has released nearly a dozen albums, frequently in collaboration (Magical Orchestra, fellow Norwegian musician Jenny Hval, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones) and including three covers albums featuring radically arranged treatments of well-loved songs from the likes of Joy Division and New Order, Dolly Parton, Lou Reed, Thin Lizzy, Sandy Denny, Prince, ABBA, Nico, and Black Sabbath! Quite an eclectic musical taste. This time out, Susanna has collaborated with a quartet of women musicians (electronics, tape recorders, and samples) named after the Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady, a 14th century society that venerated the Virgin Mary. The album title comes from a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, who was a member of the society.

So right off the bat, we’re in for some heavy stuff with obvious religious overtones. But while the performances are solemn and reserved (most of Susanna’s material is), this is not liturgical music in the style of Hildegard von Bingen. The title track is a warm, piano-driven ballad that bears immediate similarities to Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, sisters Lily and Madeleine, and acid folkies Sharron Kraus and Marissa Nadler. It sets the pace for much that follows: quiet, exquisite vocals, minimalist backing from the Brotherhood, and emotionally intoxicating image-laden lyrics that Susanna says are not intended to play out as a concept album, but which retain an eerie, fairy tale quality.

‘Wayfarer’ boasts unusual electronic effects and ‘Ecstasy X’ haunts like an icy Bjork outtake (complete with creaking doors, squawking bird effects, and other haunted house noises), while ‘Death and The Miser’ (featuring the Brotherhood’s Greek chorus of “Money, Money, Money, Money, Money…”) may be more effective while staring at Bosch’s titular painting. In fact, with additional titles like ‘Ship of Fools’, ‘Gluttony and Lust’, and ‘River To Hell’, you might just want to keep the painting perched alongside your stereo to achieve maximum effect!

Another esoteric recording from one of our most challenging and rewarding artists, fans of Laurie Anderson, Diamanda Galas, Nina Hagen, Yoko Ono, Nico, This Mortal Coil, et. al., will find much to enjoy, while others looking to be frightened out of their complacencies (and wits) will enjoy the theatrical atmospherics and Susanna’s vocal loop-de-loops. You actually might prefer to listen to this alone in the dark! The final lyric of the album (from the elegant ‘Gathering of Birds’) is “There’s a flock coming. Be aware!” A bit more poetic than “Be afraid…be very afraid” don’t you think?

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