The Silicone Veil
Since the release of The Brothel in 2010, Susanne Sundfør's evolution as a singer, songwriter and performer has been little short of astounding. Her initial releases barely hinted at what was to come, and the progression of boldness continues at pace in The Silicone Veil.
The Norwegian's ability as a vocalist has never been in doubt, but here it is at its most obvious, as she makes her range clear whilst demonstrating an unsettling propensity for holding in the high registers. White Foxes, perhaps the album's most invasively electronic track, is where Sundfør is found at her most versatile. These vocals soar, moving at one with the waxing and waning of the accompaniment, which is often comprised of meaty synthesisers and heavy electronics.
Said track, the album's lead single, is certainly dramatic; but there is also drama in instrumental moments. Meditations in an Emergency is an exclusively strings affair, with ensemble The Trondheim Soloists on duty, and serves as a brooding, dark mid-point interlude. It is but two-and-a-half minutes yet feels almost oppressively long, such is its impact.
Though there are undoubtedly passages which border on the garish, these only serve to accentuate the toned-down segments. Part of the way The Silicone Veil sounds can be attributed to the hands and ears of Jaga Jazzist's Lars Horntveth, who contributes co-production duties as well as featuring prominently as a musician.
Although there's a fair amount of variance between each composition, the lyrical narrative found in these songs is another element which forces you to listen more intently. The title track may be the most intriguing of these and is perhaps her strongest cut since The Brothel's own title track.
Many unusual, strange and unexpected elements are heard throughout, but things never stray into the land of the inaccessible, and nor could they be labelled "experimental". "Powerful" is perhaps the most fitting word, and though the strength of certain arrangements can feel all-engulfing, there are too many moments of near-inexpressible, extravagant brilliance on The Silicone Veil to deny Sundfør's overall accomplishment.