JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.
JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.
Five years ago, in 2009, Jenny Hval and Susanna began writing to each other. A lot has happened to Jenny and Susanna since that initial exchange of letters.
Jenny and Susanna were both singer-sonwriters. So it made sense that they collaborated. Together, they cowrote fifteen songs. They showcased these songs at their debut performance at Ladyfest, at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange on March 8th 2009. This performance was recorded, and would become Meshes Of Voices. After the success of their debut performance, Jenny and Susanna were invited to one of the biggest events in the Nordic musical calendar.
After their critically acclaimed performance at Henie Onstad Art Exchange, Jenny and Susanna were invited to one of the most prestigious events in the Norwegian musical calendar, the Oslo Jazz Festival. This is, without doubt, one of the most prestigious events in the Nordic musical calendar. At the Oslo Jazz Festival, Jenny and Susanna won friends and influenced people. Despite this, the recording of the concert at at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange wasn’t released. Indeed, another five years passed before it would be released as Meshes of Voice.
Meshes Of Voice will be released on 18th August 2014, on Susanna’s label SusannaSonatta. A lot has happened since Meshes Of Voice was recorded in March 2009.
Two years later, in 2011, Norwegian singer, songwriter, guitarist and author Jenny Hval released her third album album, Viscera, on Rune Grammofon. Viscera was the first album Jenny had released under her own name.
Previously, Jenny had recorded two albums as Rockettothesky. To Sing You Apple Trees was Rockettothesky’s 2006 debut. Two years later, Rockettothesky released Medea. It reached number twenty in the Norwegian charts. This proved to be the album that launched Jenny’s career.
When Jenny Hval released Viscera in 2011, It was to critical acclaim. Critics realised that Jenny Hval was an innovative artist. So it was no surprise Viscera was hailed one of the best albums of 2011. Uncut magazine placed Visera at number 42 on its list of the Top 50 Albums of 2011. Two years later, Jenny returned with a career defining album.
This was Jenny’s fourth album, Innocence Is Kinky. It reached number thirty-one in Norway in 2013. Not only was Innocence Is Kinky released to widespread critical acclaim, but it saw Jenny nominated for one of Norwegian music’s most prestigious award.
This was a Spellemannprisen, which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Jenny had been nominated for the best composer award. Despite Innocence Is Kinky being only Jenny’s sophomore album, this Norwegian woman of letters was establishing a reputation as one of Norway’s most innovative artists.
Comparisons were drawn to Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono and a pre-Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel. Great things were forecast of Jenny Hval. So she headed out on tours of Britain and America. This further reinforced Jenny Hval’s reputation as a truly innovative artist. The same can be said about Susanne Karolina Wallumrød.
Susanna was an experienced artist when she first met Jenny. She’d released two albums as Susanna and The Magical Orchestra, 2004s List Of Lights And Buoys and 2006s Melody Mountain. Then in 2007, Susanna released her first album as Susanna. This was Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos, which was released on Rune Grammofon. It featured twelve songs written by Susanna, and made a big impression.
Released to critical acclaim, Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos caught the attention not just of record buyers, but some music industry insiders. Among them, were Will Odham. He wrote to Susanna, expressing his admiration for her voice and music. This resulted in Susanna and Will collaborating.
This happened on Susanna’s 2008 sophomore album, Flower Of Evil. On Flower Of Evil, Susanna wrote just two songs. The over twelve songs were cover versions. This included one penned by Will Odham, Joy And Jubilee. Will dawned his Bonnie Prince Billy alias and added vocals on Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and a cover of Badfinger’s Without You. Susan gave songs by Lou Reed, Prince, Nico, Sandy Denny and Abba. For critics, this was a masterstroke. On Flower Of Evil’s release, Susanna’s star being in the ascendancy.
The following year, 2009, Susanna returned with another another album from Susanna And The Magical Orchestra. 3 was Susanna And The Magical Orchestra’s third album. Just like her previous releases, Susanna And The Magical Orchestra’s 3 was well received. However, Susanna didn’t release another album until 2011.
By then, she’d started writing to Jenny Hval. They’d been friends for two years when Susanna began one of the busiest years of her musical life, 2011.
During 2011, Susanna released two collaboration and one solo album. The first was a collaboration with Norwegian poet Gunvor Hofmo. On Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene put Gunvor’s poetry to music. This resulted in Gunvor’s poetry reaching a new audience. Then, later in 2011, Susanna collaborated with Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi on If Grief Could Wait.
Just like Flower Of Evil, If Grief Could Wait saw Susanna combine cover versions and her own songs. She only wrote two tracks. The other eleven tracks were cover versions. Susanna and Swiss harpist Giovanna Pessi reinterpreted songs by Henry Purcell, Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake. The result was another critical acclaimed and commercial successful album. Susanna’s final album of 2011 was a solo album.
Unlike her previous solo album, Susanna released Hangout as Susanna Wallumrød. It was released on ECM Records. Hangout was well received by critics. Susanna had managed to navigate the busiest year of her career successfully. She’d released three very different albums. Each found favour with critics and record buyers. However, there was more to come from Susanna. She was about to found her own record label.
One of the biggest events of 2011, was Susanna launching her own record label SusannaSonatta. That would be the outlet for Susanna’s future albums. Before that, Susanna released one more album on Rune Grammofon. This was Wild Dog.
Wild Dog featured a total of ten tracks. They were written by Susanna. On Wild Dog, Susanna became a musical chameleon. Acoustic, alt rock, balladry, indie rock and pop featured on Wild Dog. Just like previous albums, Wild Dog was well received by music critics. Susanna was well on her way to becoming one of the most successful Norwegian artists.
Susanna’s previous album was a collaboration with Ensemble neoN. The Forrester was released in 2013. Not only was The Forrester released to widespread critical acclaim, but it won a Spellemannprisen, which is Norwegian Grammy. Success came in the open category in 2013. Buoyed by this success, Susanna decided to release her collaboration with her friend Jenny Hval, Meshes Of Voice.
Meshes Of Voice was recorded on 8th March 2009 at the Henie Onstad Art Exchange. This was only Jenny Hval and Susanna’s second performance. Their performance featured fifteen tracks that Jenny and Susanna wrote. That night, Jenny Hval and Susanna were accompanied by a small, talented band.
Jenny Hval and Susanna’s band featured just two members. They were Anita Kausboll and Jo Berger Mhyer. Anita played drum, effects, noise and sung backing vocals. Jo played double bass, zither, effects and noise. Jenny played piano, autoharp and guitar. She also added effects, noise, samples and vocals. Susanna played grand piano, harmonium, and added effects, noise, samples and vocals that night in March 2009. Since then, what became Meshes Of Voice has lain unreleased. Not anymore.
Meshes Of Voice will be released on 18th August 2014. It has a fascinating backstory. The music on Meshes of Voice was written for Ladyfest in 2009. It was inspired by Maya Deren’s 1943 surrealist film, Meshes of the Afternoon, and the gothic visions of Antoni Gaudí. On Meshes Of Voices, Jenny Hval and Susanna prove a musical yin and yang.
Listening to Jenny Hval and Susanna on Meshes Of Voices is like jumping onboard a musical and emotive roller coaster. The music veers between ethereal, haunting and beautiful to wild, discord and joyous. Jenny and Susanna toy with you. They tug at your emotions with music that’s cerebral, poetic, poignant and minimalist. Sometimes, it’s not what they say, but what they leave unsaid. They leave you wondering and thinking. It’s not often that happens in music nowadays. However, Jenny and Susanna are different.
Although their voices are very different, they prove a perfect foil for each other. Especially when they sing call and response. Sometimes, raw power and emotion is countered with ethereal beauty. Other times, it’s a meeting of minds. Always, the vocals are heartfelt, impassioned and delivers with meaning and feeling. Lyrics come to life. You’re in no doubt as to their meaning. Equally compelling are the arrangements.
Mostly, the arrangements are understated. They tinkle, shimmer, glisten and quiver. Examples of this are Droplet and Milk Pleasures. They’re atmospheric and spacious. Other times, the arrangements ooze ethereal beauty. Especially on the piano lead Black Lake and O Sun O Medusa. Both tracks remind me of Kate Bush in her prime.
Equally beautiful is A Mirror in My Mouth, where the subtle arrangement allows the vocals to take centre-stage. Atmospheric describes the arrangement to Thirst That Resembles Me. Again, this allows the tender, heartfelt and ethereal vocals to capture your attention. This is the case throughout the rest of Meshes Of Voice.
I Have a Darkness and Running Down are very different to the rest of Meshes Of Voice. The multilayered arrangement envelops you, as the darkness descend and the track veers between dramatic and discordant. After that, Meshes Of Voices continues to spring surprises.
An understated arrangement provides a backdrop for an impassioned, dramatic and strident vocal on A Sudden Swing. Honey Dew sees the unmistakable sound of a harmonium provide the backdrop for Susanna’s vocal. She seems to dawn the role of a torch singer. Medusa sees another change of tack. It allows Jenny and Susanna to stretch their legs vocally. What follows, is another reminder that you’re listening to two of the finest Nordic voice.
Having just written that, House of Bones reinforces these words.It’s best described as a cathartic outpouring of emotion. Pain, hurt, sadness and emotion. It’s all there, and much more. There’s no drop in quality on Dawn. It features some of the best lyrics on Meshes Of Voice. They come alive as Jenny and Susanna’s vocal become one.
Closing Meshes Of Voice is The Black Lake Took. With an sparse, understated backdrop, there’s very little to distract you from the undisputed ethereal beauty of Jenny and Susanna. This means they close Meshes Of Voice with one of its highlights.
It’s hard to believe that an album as good as Meshes Of Voice has lain unreleased for over five years. Music as good as this deserves a much wider audience. That’s what Meshes Of Voice will be released to. After all, Jenny Hval and Susanna’s profiles are much higher than they were in 2009.
Now, Jenny Hval and Susanna have established themselves as two of the finest Nordic voices. That’s apparent on Meshes Of Voice. It’s just the latest critically acclaimed album from Jenny Hval and Susanna have released since 2009.
Critical acclaim has been a familiar friend for Jenny Hval and Susanna. Each of them have released critically acclaimed albums since 2009. Both Jenny and Susanna have been nominated for a Spellemannprisen, which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award. Susanna and Ensemble neon won a Spellemannprisen for their 2013 collaboration The Forrester was released in 2013. Maybe this is what inspired Susanna to release Meshes Of Voice.
Belatedly, Meshes Of Voice will be released on Susanna’s label SusannaSonatta, on 18th August 2014. Hopefully, Meshes Of Voice won’t be the last collaboration between Jenny Hval and Susanna. After all, what could be better than another collaboration between two of the most talented and successful Norwegian singer-songwriters? They’re like yin and yang on Meshes Of Voice. Their voices are made for each other. They bring out the best in each other, and drive each other to greater musical heights. That’s apparent on Meshes Of Voice, which is a tantalising taste of two of the finest Nordic vocalists Jenny Hval and Susanna as their career unfolds. Maybe, Meshes Of Voice is just the beginning, and further collaborations between Jenny Hval and Susanna will follow?
If they do, we’ll hear a very different Jenny Hval and Susanna. They’re five years older and have a wealth of experience under their musical belts. That’s what makes a followup to Meshes Of Voice such a tantalising proposition. Let’s just hope that somehow, Jenny Hval and Susanna can find the time within their busy schedules to record the followup to the critically acclaimed Meshes Of Voice.
JENNY HVAL AND SUSANNA-MESHES OF VOICE.
Hi Derek! Thank you for your interest in this album ‘Meshes of Voice’. Just to correct a few things, the album and recording is of the FIRST performance of this music ever- which happened at Ladyfest at Henie Onstad Arts Centre 8th of March 2009. The second performance was at the Oslo Jazz Festival.
And Susanna has released albums as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra since 2004, with three albums “List of Lights and Buoys”, “Melody Mountain” and “3” in addition to the Susanna-ones and the ones as Susanna Wallumrød. Feel free to check out all the other nine albums 🙂
All the best,
Thanks for your email. I’ll certainly be checking out your other CDs. I was playing snippets of tracks as I wrote. You and Jenny are both incredibly talented singer-songwriters. I don’t suppose there is any chance of you doing another concert together? I hope so.