22 February 2019 (released)
22 February 2019
Mysterious, medieval Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch is the source of inspiration for Susanna (on her 13th album backed by new group The Brotherhood of Our Lady whose moniker is also derived from Bosch’s religious benefactors). His provocative tri-part artwork 'Garden of Earthly Delights' is/was perceived as a reaction to the world’s horrors built on self-gratification and lustful sin, his dismay and helplessness illustrated through painting: critical reaction producing critical creation.
Opinion is contested, divided and contradicted on whether the triptych's central panel is a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost, with Peter S. Beagle describing it as an "erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty", he could easily be describing the emancipating/incapacitating properties of the global tech-grid’s illusory freedoms through screens. Or arguably that is where Susanna comes in.
Originally commissioned for the Vossajazz Festival 2017, Susanna deconstructs and reconstructs Bosch’s esoteric and nightmarish tones (other works are drawn from as well) delivering a zeitgeist album that addresses late capitalism’s collapsing consumer credo alongside fanatical fundamental beliefs that wreak death and destruction. Night and day, light and shade, good and bad, the dichotomy between, where do YOU stand, which way will YOU turn?
However, all is not forlorn, all is far from lost, there is hope and positivity amongst the decaying spiritual ruins, from ‘Wayfarer’s binary choice of virtue over debauchery, temptation ever-present as Susanna implores ‘Satan have pity on my longest dress’ to ‘Beautiful Life’s uplifting melancholia that reminds of ABBA’s 1979 song ‘Chiquitita’, the song itself a wistful paean to an Edenic paradise full of ‘transcendent experience’. An expert articulation of the passage from womb to tomb.
‘Gluttony and Lust’ and ‘River to Hell’ tell stories of their own. The former comes across like Tori Amos circling Dante’s inferno, as Susanna’s ominously teacher-preaches pronouncing that (we) ‘sell our souls to demons to make sure we have time’ a Faustian pact with nature’s laws. The latter a Styx and stones ‘no redemption for the true’ underworld sojourn with ‘echoes of sin’ where misuse a ‘woman’s allure’ signal ‘we’re beyond cure’.
Like Bosch’s paintings, this is an album riddled with literary and symbolic codes that require careful unravelling. Unlock the doors of reception and let in salvation.