Melody Mountain is the second album from the duo Susanna and the Magical Orchestra. Comprised of multi-instrumentalist Morten Qvenild (formerly of Jaga Jazzist, currently Shining and In The Country) and singer Susanna Karolina Wallumrød, this newest release finds the duo creating an entire album of cover tracks, which is no surprise given their beautiful take on Dolly Parton's "Jolene" from their first release List Of Light And Buoys.
Musically, the building points are still largely the same, with Qvenild creating stark, but absolutely luscious backdrops with piano, autoharp, vibraphone, organs and keyboards while Wallumrød drapes her expressive voice over it all. Opening the album is a take on Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and the track is so quiet and slow that takes a little bit to realize just how much the two are sucking you in with their sound. The harpsichord-laced "It's A Long Way To The Top" follows, and with a more moderate pace is one of the only tracks on the album to move any faster than slow burn (which I suppose is fitting considering AC/DC did the original).
The duo tackles one of the most covered songs ever in "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and fortunately their quiet, electric piano rendition is one of the most effective I've heard, cutting to the core of the emotional lyrics without playing it for laughs or simply running through the motions with a more faithful recreation. Such is the nature of all the pieces on the release, taking songs and stripping them to their very basics while focusing in on texture and of course the vocals themselves.
In places, the results are absolutely stunning, as on the cover of KISS's "Crazy, Crazy Nights," where Qvenild turns the original guitar-romp into a stunning, fluttery backdrop of gorgeous swells while Wallumrød seems to bring out another side of the vocals (just like Mark Kozelek did on most of What's Next To The Moon). Likewise, the thumping electronic pop of Depeche Mode is turned into a creepy lullaby on the ultra-melancholy "Enjoy The Silence." If the album has a flaw, it's that just about every song on the release is turned into something super slow (and in some places rather languid). On the other hand, Melody Mountain (with production by Deathprod) is one of the most gorgeously-produced albums I've heard in some time. Subtlety is the rule on the disc, and it really seeps into your being on good headphones or nice speakers.