Meditations on Love (SusannaSonata)

Contact Ahmad Asani about Susanna

Celebrated Norwegian singer and composer Susanna has announced her new album, Meditations on Love, out August 23rd via her own label SusannaSonata, and shares its lead single/video, “Everyone Knows.” Having spent five years writing material, Meditations on Love reflects on the complexities and difficulties of maintaining love. So many songs celebrate the giddy joy of a new connection or licking the wounds from a break-up, but Meditations on Love explores what happens in between, examining the work required by a healthy relationship and contemplating the conditions that turn love into something toxic. Susanna’s mastery of balladry is well documented, but on Meditations on Love, she introduces a rhythmic presence new to her work. The result is one of Susanna’s strongest and most dynamic recordings of her career.


The album’s stirring opening track, “Everyone Knows” is propelled by an arsenal of tick-tocking percussion as Susanna admonishes a cheating lover she’s left behind while quietly wondering, “How can I go on, without you?” The self-directed video, filmed and edited by Jonas Mailand, explores the idea of feeling alone while being together. It features choreography by Sulekha Ali Omar.


Susanna explains of the song: “I tried to capture the very vulnerable feeling of leaving a relationship and the shame that often comes with being betrayed. Your world is suddenly turned upside down and you are left with the aching feeling, ‘how can I go on without my love?’ And the ‘love’ is not just that specific person, but all the things you identify with the relationship, and very often how you identify yourself, who you are.”


Across a career spanning two decades, Susanna has been a creator of bold, original and enrapturing music, capable of building worlds to lose yourself in. She has collaborated with an astonishing array of musicians such as Jenny Hval and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. Her rapturous, honeyed voice has thrived in a variety of contexts, whether accompanied by her own piano playing or a full orchestra. In many of these cases, Susanna entered each recording situation with elaborate arrangements intact and an ensemble fully rehearsed. The studio always served its purpose to get those sounds on tape. But with Meditations on Love, the studio became a crucial tool of exploration.


“With Meditations on Love, I wanted to bring my songs and music into a new landscape. And I knew I had to find someone new to work with on the production to do that, so that I could be pushed in other directions,” says Susanna. She turned to Juhani Silvola, a Finnish-Norwegian producer and musician who moves easily between pop music, experimental sounds, and folk traditions. Susanna and Silvola gathered hours of material created spontaneously in the studio, assembling new arrangements as if putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together. At times the songs summon the sound of American maverick composer Harry Partch as channeled by Tom Waits. Other times the album pays homage to Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic Twin Peaks or invokes the indelible spirit of vintage Ethiopian soul.


Working with engineer Marcus Bror Forsgren at Studio Paradiso in Oslo, Susanna and Silvola turned to a small ensemble of trusted musicians to contribute. The evolving arrangements fill each song with sonic surprises, a little bass clarinet phrase there, a haunted violin shimmer there, all gone as rapidly as they appeared. While Susanna and Silvola built the core of the songs with an arsenal of keyboards, tuned percussion and programming, many of the details were introduced by their sublime collaborators. The snaking strings of Sarah-Jane Summers and the silken, rippling reeds of Harald Lassen and Morten Barrikmo bring texture and color to each tune. Drummer Dag Erik Knedal Andersen of the acclaimed post-bop quartet Cortex laid down the bedrock beats for several of the songs, while experimental percussionist Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen of Pinquins and Ensemble Neon contributed a magical carpet of sounds both percussive and timbral, expanding the soundscape with a veritable encyclopedia of extended techniques. No Susanna recording has offered such rich variety.