Big in Norway, Susanne Sundfør has been a darling of the highest reaches of the Scandinavian charts for several years. Lesser known in the UK, this mostly but not exclusively synth-pop album may well bring her a deservedly larger audience.
A bare and mournful drone piece with pipe organ chords, opener Darlings belies what is to come throughout the rest of the album. Starting small with a lone breathy vocal, the track fills out with cathedral reverbs and harmonies before moving quickly into choral accompaniment, suddenly ending in crystalline motifs that trick you into Accelerate‘s techno grunge. The angry throbbing drive is reminiscent of Björk, Army of Me mixed through with the later dirtiness of Medulla with a low-fi groove and slow vocal brood over proceedings. Church organs join in with a Rick Wakeman-style solo that brings the song to a fine crescendo.
The brooding drum beat resolves into the altogether sweeter pop track of Fade Away, a light ’80s arpeggiating synth dance tune. The simplicity of the song sits as a distinct contrast with the preceding petulance. Vocal harmonies playfully flow around the lead voice, imbuing a clean and angelic presence over the harder keyboard filters – Sundfør has been collaborating with Röyksopp and it shows. The promising ballad Silencer is tarnished by an orchestral arrangement that builds halfway through using ’80s synth pads which don’t convince, whereas the album-only (not available for download as a track) Memorial features beautiful string arrangements that would have worked much better. Memorial is an epic that really delivers with a gorgeous orchestral backing. Mostly instrumental, the song is successfully ambitious with a lead vocal that spins off at Gershwin shaped angles.
Kamikaze brings us into the now and highlights Sundfør’s voice to good effect whilst Delirious begins promisingly with an entertaining pastiche of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life but then moves on to New Order style synth pop that veers into Europop territory and only just avoids falling entirely into the genre. Ultimately it stands as a throwaway track along with Slowly, harking back to the more bland styles redolent of Madonna.
The album returns to more interesting terrain with the naked vocal of Trust Me allowing the voice to be vulnerable amidst the beloved Scandinavian emptiness of Sigur Rós-style pads, finally raising the tempo for the nervous fidgeting of Insects, a ‘hands in the air’ rave inflected electronic pulse of twitches, bleeps and stings with a languid reverb-laden vocal floating amongst the overall aggression.
Ten Love Songs is a showcase of styles that make for a well balanced album with a more commercial tone than her previous outings. As a complete work it falls short of its full potential with one or two of the tracks showing less invention than the majority. The 10-minute Memorial is a tour de force stand out and as a self-published, produced and performed work this music really stands up. If you’re looking for ’80s tinged reflections from the future, this will definitely provide satisfaction.
01. Darlings (2:39)
02. Accelerate (5:26)
03. Fade Away (3:18)
04. Silencer (3:27)
05. Kamikazi (5:11)
06. Memorial (10:06)
07. Delirious (4:55)
08. Slowly (4:27)
09. Trust Me (4:01)
10. Insects (3:05)
Total Time – 46:35
Trondheimsolistene Chamber Ensemble
Record Label: Sonnet Sound
Year Of Release: 2015
Country of Origin: Norway