sat 25/05/2024

CD: Susanna & The Brotherhood of Our Lady - Garden of Earthly Delights | reviews, news & interviews

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

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

Hieronymus Bosch inspires a creepy commentary on present times

'Garden of Earthly Delights': a discipline-straddling work

Lyrics such as “are we hunting for life among misery, Satan have pity on my long distress” and “we’re on a ship of fools, sails laughing and singing to hell” telegraph that, as a commentary on the present, Garden of Earthly Delights isn’t painting a rosy picture.

The narrator of the title track, which opens the album, lives next door to the garden, climbs its fence and describes what’s encountered within: a devil offers money in exchange for a good time and ecstasy is achievable only by following the Goddess of Darkness.

Norway’s Susanna Wallumrød is not the first musician to co-opt the premise of the Hieronymus Bosch painting as metaphor for current-day concerns. A detail appeared on the sleeve of the 1967 debut album by the baroque, literate American band Pearls Before Swine. The image chimed with the portent-imbued songs. The words of The United States of America’s "The Garden of Earthly Delights”, from their 1968 album, were about the symbolism of a malevolent garden. On 1989’s Oranges and Lemons, XTC’s “Garden of Earthly Delights" was less sombre but still used the garden allegory as a guide to the contemporary world.

Accompanied by a new, pointedly named all-female band, Wallumrød – who has also recorded solo, as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra and in collaboration with Jenny Hval – has created a discipline-straddling work. The Bosch influence predominates, but Greek mythology and Baudelaire are quoted. The twisting songs are creepy, stately and delivered in a mannered tone suggesting singing while under hypnosis. Instruments are employed sparingly but a lushness comes from meshing acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics, synthesiser and an accordion. Compositionally, there are hints of, indeed, Pearls Before Swine, David Ackles, Dory Previn and the Susanne Sundfør of The Brothel. More song cycle than anything else, the arresting Garden of Earthly Delights begs to be heard and performed in a multi-media context.

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