Susanna and Ensemble neoN: The Forester is Quiet Art

Susanna and Ensemble neoN’s latest album, entitled “The Forester” is up for review today, and like the man said, “this ain`t no fooling around”. This is a very somber record. The content mostly consists of a gorgeous, rich and emotive female voice backed by very stark instrumentation . I detect piano, some woodwinds, a  warm theorbo, and some strings – a combination of instruments that makes for an introspective and deliberative experience to those that give it a chance, which I fear may not be a lot of people.

This is definitely “art” in the least accessible sense of the word. Every syllable of every word is drawn out, as if commanding the listener to pay attention and consider what’s being said. The music lacks an obvious rhythm, instead echoing the steady rise and fall of the listener’s own breathing. This isn’t party music or dance tunes, it’s not rock or pop, this is music for sitting and thinking, maybe even meditating. Unlike what you hear on the radio or in the club, it requires a sacrifice from the listener. You have to allow yourself to feel it, you have to make that investment of your attention and your time, but the rewards are there if you can hack it.

I want to echo a word I used earlier – experience. This is not music for listening to so much as it is music for experiencing, for feeling. Put the kids to bed, shut off the tv or whatever distraction you bother yourself with, and put this on. Let your mind wander along the path marked by the sounds. It won’t take long, the album is barely over half an hour long, but I honestly believe that anyone who gives this a shot will get something out of it.

The first song sets the mood perfectly, repeating the question “who are you?”, and the emotion behind the voice asking the question compelled me to echo the same sentiment in my own heart. To be honest, there was a section of instrumentation during the first track that made me think of Maury Laws’ score for Rankin Bass’ classic animated adaptation of The Hobbit, which I found to be strangely appropriate. See, The Hobbit is, at it’s heart, a story about breaking out of our routines and discovering what we’re really made of, who we really are. “Who are you?”, indeed. Successive tracks each have a tone or mood of their own, but each is equally worthy of the investment they ask for.

Susanna Wallumrød has been in the Norwegian jazz scene since the mid-90’s. Now in her thirties, she has earned her place in the music scene, working with an impressive roster of interesting talent, keeping busy with tours and collaboration. Her songs have been featured on American television here and there.

 The drawback to this album should be obvious – it’s not the kind of thing you would listen to every day. Taken as a body of music, without the investment I mentioned earlier, it could get boring. There’s nothing catchy about it, nothing to draw the listener in, but I believe that it has a lot to offer all the same. Do yourself a favor, and give it a listen.

The Forester goes on sale October 18 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon and iTunes.




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