Susanne Sundfør turns from EDM-driven pop to intimate, folk-steeped songwriting | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Susanne Sundfør turns from EDM-driven pop to intimate, folk-steeped songwriting 

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click to enlarge Susanne Sundfør

Susanne Sundfør

Raphael Chatelain

Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør found international success with her 2015 album Ten Love Songs (Sonnet Sounds), a slick recording that situated her opulent folk-derived melodies within fizzy arrangements propelled by EDM-style production. Her soaring vocals shine in such jacked-up surroundings, but the album’s treacly synthesizers and four-on-the-floor grooves tended to flatten the refined beauty of her tunes into lowest-common-denominator pop. Still, that formula led to heavy international touring and a growing profile, which makes it remarkable that on her recent follow-up, Music for People in Trouble (Bella Union), Sundfør utterly turns the table in favor of delicate intimacy. The oozingly slow opening track features her crystalline voice accompanied only by acoustic guitar and—as the song winds down—a sensual pedal steel. The peal of church bells segues into the drop-dead gorgeous “Reincarnation,” a ballad that melds the mannered aura of an old madrigal with a rustic country lament, but the album takes with more contemporary vibes on songs like the piano-based “Good Luck Bad Luck.” The jazzy tenor saxophone soliloquy that precedes “The Sound of War” (and the needling electronic drone that follows it), as well as abstract splice-and-dice spoken-word experimentation on the title track add welcome surprise, but ultimately Sundfør’s honeyed, sterling voice gives the album its riveting center. Even when she pushes toward more commercial territory, as on the soulful ballad “Undercover,” her voice transcends the backing choir and sugary blend of piano, guitar, and pedal steel. She’s largely performing solo on this tour, though multi-instrumentalist Jesse Chandler from BNQT will join her on some songs. I can’t think of a better setting for her lovely, memorable songs.   v

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