I’ve been a fan of Susanne Sundfør’s music for several years now. It began with the M83 score for the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion in 2013, continued strongly with 2015’s Ten Love Songs, and has perpetuated as I’ve listened to her entire catalogue, and even her score for the short film Self Portrait. It’s been since 2017 that she’s released a new studio album, not counting 2019’s live album Live from the Barbican. And, what with all her posts about clean farming practices and returning to our earthy roots, I honestly thought she might be done for a while. Sure, she has collaborated with Röyksopp recently, but I wasn’t sure we’d see a new album from her.
I’m glad I was mistaken. Susanne is back with a brand new record called blómi, which means “to bloom”. I have no idea what most of the song titles mean, or I can haphazard a guess, but I’d probably embarrass myself. Anyways, the record releases on April 28th.
Susanne’s music is something difficult to label. She is certainly and deeply influenced by European pop culture, but she has explored electronica, folk, neoclassical, and other genres, too. She tends to put a little bit of everything in her music. For this record, though, she leans strongly towards folk, not in the traditional way, but in the salt-of-the-earth, dirty hands, familial sort of way. This album feels very much like a message to her daughter and to those she loves.
And it isn’t your typical album, either. The first track is entirely spoken word, though profoundly poetic, insightful, and inspiring. The last track is sort of like that, too, only in shortened form. There are odd quirks frolicking about the entire album which make it more of an experience than strictly a collection of songs. In fact, it’s a little weird to talk about these tracks on an individual basis because the album flows and weaves a certain tapestry of organic magic that needs to be heard in one sitting.
blómi delivers its exquisite tale brightly and mystically. The songs here are not a story, no, but they still tell a fable of love for parent, spouse, and child. They tell a romance of love for all things and for the wondrous mothering processes of the earth and of human beings. It is refreshing in that way.
There is something life-giving and full of blessing about this record. The album is one of appreciation of ancestors, and bestowment of wisdom and love upon descendants. It is about delving deeply within own minds, our own bodies, and our own quantum and cosmic makeup to find peace, calm, and existence. It is an album about becoming, but through the most human ways possible because that is how things are. It is about connecting the divine with the organic, linking the ways of the past with the ways of the future, and joining the universal song of coming and going, living and dying. It is about finding beauty in everyday spaces because those places are anything but ordinary, anything but mundane. It’s about finding the beauty in every crack, every wrinkle, every faded whisper. It is about life as it is, and life how it could be. And most of all, it is about appreciating life as it is without getting caught up in how it should be, yet understanding the responsibility and right we possess to shape tomorrow.
I’m honestly quite affected by this experience. Susanne emotes intimately and harmoniously as she delivers yet another powerful performance. But it’s more than that, too; there is a certain joy and happiness that I find within her vocals. This album has been a long time coming, and I think she is feeling full of light more than ever.
The album has ten tracks. The opener “orð vǫlu” is spoken word about finding the center of focus within your literal body, and it is beautifully wrought. From the illustrious sanctuary that is “Ashera’s Song” to the expressive and organic title track, the album has no trouble transfixing us, though. I especially like the harmony and vocal technique of “rūnā” and the simple melody and jazz of “fare thee well”. The first half hits close to the heart.
The second half features the two singles, both of which I love. “leikara Ijóð” is about harmony, hand clapping, and slow burning climax. It takes a couple listens, but it really opens up the more I hear it. “alyosha” is my addiction right now, a tender and emotional message to her father that brings me to tears. It also seems to be a demonstration of her love for her new spouse, and so the song blends those two important men into one hopeful and beautiful piece. I lost my own father a couple years ago, and in this song I hear admiration and relationship that I wish I could have had with him. That is why I tend to get emotional over this song.
“ṣānnu yārru lī” is such a strange beast as it features spoken word in a language I don’t understand, and it is basically a quirky little plodding romp that has really grown on me over the last month. “náttsǫngr” is the last song proper on the album, and it is a hovering work of grace that I love. The final track “orð hjartans” is an electronic and abstract affair that closes with a reminder of saying “yes” to life. It’s quite effective.
I’ll be honest, the first time I heard this album, I was taken aback. But as I started to understand the experience Susanne was offering here, blómi started taking hold of me. This album is so positive and optimistic, but in beautifully dark fashion. It truly does help one reach the rest that it advocates, and I feel that I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.
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