“Mythical animals were a big inspiration,” says composer and songwriter Jenny Hval about Meshes Of Voice, a new collaboration between her and Susanna. “We looked at Medusa, Athena and Harpy (a combination of woman and bird) – as examples of depictions of woman – the ugly, the goddess-like, the gruesome,” agrees Susanna. This collaboration – featuring the two strongest Nordic voices around today – started back in 2009 as an exchange of letters, then developed into two live performances, one at Oslo Jazz Festival, the other at the Henie Onstad Art Centre, where this album was recorded. Mixed and mastered by Helge Sten (Deathprod, Supersilent), Meshes Of Voice presents a stunning vocal universe of confessions, whispers and seductions. Tracks like “I Have Walked This Body” seem to rise monstrously and threateningly out of some mythological fog of distorted improvised noise.
A key inspiration was film maker Maya Deren’s surrealist, cyclical Meshes of the Afternoon, a milestone of visionary film from 1943. Deren’s famous image of a cloaked figure with a reflective face recurs on “A Mirror In My Mouth”, creating a complex world of musical fictions akin to those of Julia Holter and Joanna Newsom.
Susanna launched Susanna And The Magical Orchestra in 2000 together with keyboardist Morten Qvenild (Jaga Jazzist, In The Country). The duo’s Rune Grammofon albums List Of Lights And Buoys (2004), Melody Mountain (2006) and 3 (2009) contained a mix of original compositions as well as highly personal interpretations of songs by Leonard Cohen, Scott Walker, Dolly Parton, Prince, Sandy Denny and KISS.
In 2007 Susanna’s songwriting took a major leap with Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos (Rune Grammofon), released under her own name. It included twelve of her self-penned songs, and caught the attention of Will Oldham (Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Palace Brothers), who posted Susanna a handwritten letter professing his admiration for her voice and music, which later led to the pair working together. Susanna has continued to release both her highly personal interpretations of other people’s songs Flower of Evil (2008) and If Grief Could Wait (2011, together with Swiss Giovanna Pessi), and written music to poetry by Norwegian poet Gunvor Hofmo Jeg Vil Hjem Til Menneskene (2011) in addition to her all originals album Wild Dog (2012).
Jenny Hval‘s Rune Grammofon releases Viscera (2011) and Innocence is Kinky (2013) have both earned international acclaim (Pitchfork compared her to Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono and “pre-Sledgehammer” Peter Gabriel) as well as extensive touring in the US and UK (most recently supporting Swans). Currently based in New York, her first two albums was released under the moniker Rockettothesky and more recently in the duo Nude On Sand. In her native Norway she is also a published novelist and writer.
Meshes Of Voice is released on SusannaSonata, the label launched by Susanna in 2011, a self-operated outlet for her to curate her own back catalogue and develop new music. Last year she released her acclaimed album The Forester (2013), a collaboration with the Norwegian Ensemble neoN combining the antique notes of the Baroque theorbo, woodwinds and strings, and for which Susanna received a Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannsprisen).
This is a meshing of two of the strongest contemporary voices and most independent musical minds active today.
Jenny Hval: voice, effects, noise, samples, guitar, autoharp, piano
Susanna: voice, grand piano, effects, noise, samples, electric harmonium
Anita Kaasbøll: voice, effects, noise, drums
Jo Berger Myhre: double bass, zither, effects, noise
Recorded at Henie Onstad Arts Centre, 8 March 2009, Høvikodden, Norway by David Solheim
Mixed and mastered at Audio Virus LAB by Helge Sten
All songs composed by Jenny Hval/Susanna