Brimming with ghostly motifs, Norwegian artist Susanna has written a towering record exploring the French poet Charles Baudelaire’s lush and strange worlds. On the final opus of her Baudelaire-themed trilogy, she conjures a grandiose tapestry of horror entwining the poet’s profound words (“Burial: Above your cursed head you will hear, wolves with their long lamenting howls, night after night, throughout the year”) with the majestic arrangements of KORK orchestra. Unlike its functional title, the album itself is not fully closed for audience interpretation and discovery.
The orchestral massiveness of Baudelaire & Orchestra complements the melancholy in Susanna’s voice and intensifies the spectre of death that looms all over the album. Although occasionally the grandeur of strings occupies a little too much space, this frequently serves to benefit the storytelling. Against all this, Susanna’s penchant for tape loops and left-field abstraction doesn’t go unnoticed. While ‘Heavy Sleep’ and ‘Rewind’ disrupt the symphonic bouquet with tape distortion, voice and bowed strings, standalone interludes ‘The Ghost’, ‘Alchemy of Suffering’ and ‘Elevation’ unfurl smaller fragments of dissonance.
Compared to the rest of the trilogy, Baudelaire & Orchestra is arguably Susanna’s most complex and challenging collaboration, emphasising her schmaltzy vocals through sung harmonies and portamento-style strings. It feels less intimate than the rest of the trilogy, but the scale of the work remains impressive.