What makes Susanna Karolina Wallumr?d?s voice so unique is that it always sounds as if she was whispering in your ear. Your ear, that is, not anyone else?s. Call it intimate, if you like, or call it personal. It is, at any rate, so fragile and uncompromising that it practically hurts to listen to it.
Anyone feeling that Susanna?s releases with The Magical Orchestra (which consisted of nobody but Morten Qvenild) were over-orchestrated or all too sumptuous will be relieved to hear that on her latest Susanna performs solo. The list of contributors to ?Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos? is long, of course, but this is in fact the first time that Susanna plays any instruments on one of her own albums. In a Foxy Digitalis interview from about two years back Wallumr?d did ?strongly doubt? that she ever would do so. But here she is, playing piano and guitar. Still, the album is ? if anything ? even more reduced than ?List of Lights and Buoys? and ?Melody Mountain?, the cover album with the phenomenal spinet version of ACDC?s ?It?s a Long Way to the Top?.
It?s fascinating to realize how Wallumr?d has taken directions from her radical cover versions. When listening to ?Sonata Mix Dwarf cosmos?, time and again you feel reminded of ?Melody Mountain?. Small fragments of those songs spook around the new songs, radically re-contextualized. Identifying them is soothing and exciting at the same time. ?People Living? is one of the tracks on which fragments of the cover album shine through, but so is the opener ?Intruder? which uses theremin, piano and guitars to make you feel there are no instruments at all. It does, however, take quite a few listens until tracks begin to stand out. Wallumr?d has often denied her listener the elevating experience of catchy melodies. ?Better Days? is the one instantly recognizable track on this album, and it is also my favourite.
?Sonata Dwarf Mix Cosmos? is accompanied by some of the best cover photography I?ve seen in a very long time. It?s not only a stunning photograph in its own right (unfortunately the photographer isn?t mentioned on the promo cardboard sleeve), but it?s also the perfect supplement to Wallumr?d?s music.
This is a gorgeous album that I respect immensely, but to which I?m not hooked. I wish I was, though. ?Sonata Mix Dwarf Cosmos? is at once very near and utterly out of reach. This album is passionate but somehow cold, communicating all the time but not really reaching out. ?I wish you were here / I wish you were near?, Wallumr?d sings in ?Hangout?. Me too. 7/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (12 September, 2007)