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(60:28, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Life Is 4:21 2. A Good Man 3:49 3. Childhood Dreams 6:31 4. Les Larmes 9:35 5. Tuesday Rain 5:08 6. Ileana’s Song 3:37 7. When You’re Dead 7:15 8. Pigeon’s Intrusion 6:00 9. Le Voyage 3:22 10. Linear Blindness 4:12 11. Butterflies 6:38 LINEUP: Susan Clynes – piano; vocals With: Simon Lenski – cello Pierre Mottet – bass Nico Chkifi – drums
Prolusion. Belgian artist Susan CLYNES is what most would describe as a young and promising artist, presumably. Still a few years shy of turning 30, and yet she's been an active artist for almost a decade already, her debut album "Sugar for a Dream" dating back to 2005. "LIfe Is..." is her second full length production, and was released through Moonjune Records in 2014.
Analysis. It's interesting to note that Clynes opts for a live production as her second album out, and rather than documenting the proceedings of a single concert this album revolves around three different concerts, each of them with a rather different line-up and thus also featuring material that explores rather different styles and modes of expression. The opening title track, Tuesday Rain, Le Voyage and Linear Blindness are all recorded at a concert featuring Clynes alone. The songs are all, obviously, revolving around her talents as a pianist and vocalist. The sole instrumental of the lot, Le Voyage, is the one that struck the deepest chord with me among these. Clynes is a good vocalist, but to my ears, she didn't quite manage to pull it off on these specific recordings. There's a dividing line between a good and a very good performance, and to my ears there was a bit left to go to reach the latter here. Nothing of any dramatic nature admittedly, but she did sound a tad strained at times, and when accompanied solely by the piano even the most minute detail of a vocal performance will stand for better or worse. Otherwise I note down plenty of skilled piano playing and a high quality vocalist, perhaps with something of a Tori Amos oriented vibe on these compositions. Le Voyage stands out due to its positive and enticing nature among this quartet, and the following Linear Blindness is just about on par, the vocals on this particular piece appearing as spot on and with a surprisngly subtle but effective emotional delivery as this composition unfolds. On Childhood Dreams, Les Larmes, When You're Dead, Pigeon's Intrusion and Butterflies we find Clynes accompanied by cellist Simon Lenski. The combination of the naturally melancholic sound of the cello and Clynes’ primarily light toned wandering piano movements create a nifty natural contrast, and to my ears the vocals are a notch up in quality on these recordings as well. The music here becomes more artful, especially when the cello is used in more unconventional manner, and at times we're also treated with somewhat more of an exotic oriented atmosphere, again mainly due to the cello. One song that made me curious was When You're Dead, a song that contained a multitude of emotional aspects beyond sadness and longing, at least as I experienced it, and it would be tempting to speculate that this song is a rather personal one that at the time of the recording touched upon tender issues that were reflected in the performance. Otherwise Childhood Dreams intrigued me with its fluctuations in pace and intensity, the use of a textured cello expression that brought it close to a post rock oriented affair in the final phase of the song a nifty and intriguing little detail. Those with a taste for piano driven jazz get their fill on this disc as well with A Good Man and Ileana's Song. There are jazz oriented escapades here and there on the rest of this album too, at least there are cases that can be argued to reside mainly within a jazz context, but it's when backed by drums and bass that the material gets the emphasis needed to firmly and undeniably place it within a jazz context. Rather surprisingly for me, as I'm by far an avid jazz fan, it was these two compositions that charmed me most of all. Ileana's Song in particular, and while it might not be the most challenging fare on this production it is a smooth and flawless performance of a song that at least in this live recording is a charming and highly compelling experience.
Conclusion. Susan Clynes is an artist I expect we'll get to hear a lot from in the coming years. At 26 and at the relative start of her adult life there's always a chance that other aspects of life may become more important of course, but if she desires so herself this is an artist that should have a long career ahead of her. It'll be interesting to see where she'll end up in the musical universe, as she showcases a talent for mainstream oriented piano and vocals music just as much as for more art oriented sophisticated pop and good old fashioned jazz on this production. If I should point towards a likely key audience for this specific CD, my guess would be that those with a fairly liberal taste in music and an affection for artists with comparable qualities to the likes of Tori Amos should find this disc to suit their tastes quite nicely.
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