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Susanna 2016_Photo by Anne Valuer copy 2
Photo by Anne Valuer

Meet Susanna, the Norwegian musician exploring spirituality

Stream the singer-songwriter’s new album Triangle, which asks existential questions of religion and morality

If you’ve never heard of Norwegian artist Susanna before, you might be overwhelmed by her 11-album-long discography. But Triangle, her latest full-length, is probably the easiest entry point into her world, offering some of her most concise and immediately-satisfying songs to date. Composed, arranged, performed, recorded, and produced by Susanna between Oslo and Los Angeles, it’s an expansive and expressive record, with deep atmospheres and self-analytical lyrics that explore spirituality, dreams, and Crowleyism. Across the 22-song album, Susanna experiments with conventional song lengths, arrangements, and instrumentation while retaining a familiar pop form, recalling artists like Björk as well as fellow Norwegian artist and collaborator Jenny Hval.

Dazed are presenting a full stream of Triangle below. We also caught up with Susanna to find out more about the album, how the dual environments of Oslo and L.A. influenced its conception, and how the work of artist and occultist Marjorie Cameron ended up gracing Triangle’s cover.

Triangle’s press release describes it as “deeply Nordic in its willingness to confront existential darkness head-on”. Do you see this as a particularly Nordic quality?

Susanna: Maybe it is a particularly Nordic quality. I’m not sure if I’m the right one to describe why it is, though. That said, it’s both dark and cold for much of the year up north in Europe. There are very few people living in the country and maybe it’s a bit separated from the rest of the world – at least historically – which might encourage contemplating these huge existential questions. At least it does for me.

At the same time, much of the album was conceived in Los Angeles. What’s your relationship with that city like?

Susanna: I wrote half of the album in Norway and half of it in Los Angeles, and the contrasts between the countries – and between the cities L.A. and Oslo – are fascinating, especially the contrasts within L.A., with the big city and entertainment industry alongside a flourishing underground art/music scene. There are a lot of layers and resistance in the beauty that I think resonates well with my music. 

One of Marjorie Cameron’s paintings is used as the album artwork. Why were you drawn to her art?

Susanna: There are actually two Marjorie Cameron paintings on my album – East Angel and West Angel on the front and back of the CD and LP. I discovered her art on one of my trips to L.A. and was immediately drawn to her very powerful pictures. Unfortunately I missed the exhibition – it had finished when I visited – but I started to read about her life and her art, and her interaction with the occult. I felt a connection that very much inspired Triangle. The themes on the album are in existential and spiritual matters – the fight between darkness and light, within us as humans and in the world in general. It wasn’t until the record was finished that I got the idea to ask for the permission to use Cameron’s art.

“The themes on the album are in existential and spiritual matters – the fight between darkness and light, within us as humans and in the world in general.” — Susanna

Triangle is a long album, but its songs are short. Why’d you approach it that way?

Susanna: My main field is absolutely grounded in popular music – singable melodies, simple chord structures. Still, I want to push beyond what’s already been done by so many people before me. I find it more interesting to carve out my own signature. I spend time between the borders of different genres to try and create a room for my music. I focused a lot on being somehow true to the ideas for the songs, instead of trying to make a “normal” song with a given form or length. I wanted to break free of the conventions that often decides how long an album should be, how long a song should be, or which shape this project should have. 

Can you tell us about your relationship with Jenny Hval? Her last album Apocalypse, girl seemed to be a bit of a turning point for her.

Susanna: I find every album Jenny has made, both as Rockettothesky and in her own name, very interesting. It was such a joy doing Meshes of Voice together with her. It’s great that Jenny is growing her audience these days, and I look forward to hearing what’s next. We have loose plans about writing more music for our collaboration, but right now both of our solo acts are taking a lot of time and energy. 

Triangle is your 11th album. Do you think it’s a good starting point for newcomers?

Susanna: I hope I’ll have new listeners with this album. Yes, my catalogue is eclectic – but for the open-minded listener, I think you can start wherever and get something out of it. Some people probably prefer some albums over others, while some are brave enough to follow me on my different sidetracks and collaborations, and back on my main track again. I go where my voice takes me.