CD, Siren Wire Recordings, 2006
Although she started her career in music journalism, UK-based Susan Matthews began composing her own avant-garde experimental music in 1999. Primarily recording music for art events and multi-media installations, Matthews went on to set up her own record label, Siren Wire Recordings, in 2005. It was for this label that she released her debut album “SirenWire69” and now releases her second album, “Bruiser”.
Matthews’ work concentrates on atmosphere, mood and the use of voices in different ways alongside electronic manipulation and a touch of distortion in all manner of interesting and creative ways. “Truth” for example consists almost entirely of layered voices which are initially quite ethereal and beautiful but are then enhanced by electronic interference. In contrast, “Hushed Corrosive/Lifelore” that follows it is a denser, busier experiment in fast electronically created tones over low background drones. The resultant effect provides a sense of urgency with a lingering air of ominous fear which eventually gives way to the static fuzz of a melancholic cinematic soundtrack complete with a heartfelt answer phone message and babies crying. It is around this point that the mood gets considerably darker and more sinister, exhibiting a sense of horror movie tension and imminent danger. “Fortune” changes direction again, this time focussing solely on the treble recorder as a sound source and exhibiting a traditional rustic charm that wouldn’t be out of place in “The Wicker Man” film. Bringing things back to the digital age once more, “Flinch” again opts for the cinematic route as bell chime electronics and metallic clangs help Matthews’ own brand of dark tension permeate throughout. Showing yet another side to her work, “Ellipse-dream” is a restless track based around a low rhythmic industrial drone. Closing the album as it started, “Mbox” takes strange but delicate reversed music box chimes and pairs them with her own impassioned whispered lyrics. Matthews’ ability to create intensely emotive and atmospheric music perhaps reflects on her ongoing demand for art and installation work. The combination of her music with the right art installation has the potential to be a potent mix.
Matthews’ work provides an intensely personal insight into her thoughts and feelings and this in turn creates a level of intimacy and feeling with each track. Whilst undeniably dark in nature, “Bruiser” is experimental and not afraid to play with sound and effects to achieve the desired result. It is the sort of album that has hidden depths that slowly reveal themselves on each listen. On occasion, particularly on “Mbox” and “Mbox 2”, Matthews’ vocal whisperings bear some resemblance to the impassioned lyrics of Coil’s late great Jhonn Balance in nature. Praise indeed.
— Paul Lloyd