CD review by Roger-Z (09/22/15)
It took me a while to figure out how to describe Susan Clynes and the music she makes on "Life Is..." First off, look at the album cover. Are those real piercings or paste-ons? And the music? The compositions, all penned by Clynes (who lives in Belgium), combine theatrical singing, classical piano, and cello to create sounds that pre-date Electronica. Pulsing vocal and instrumental phrases repeat in short, interweaving bursts reminiscent of Michael Oldfield's classic, "Tubular Bells." Recorded live in the studio, the CD includes cellist Simon Lenski (DAAU), bassist Pierre Mottet (The Wrong Object), and drummer Nico Chkifi (Champ d’Action).
A loving, positive vibe permeates this project, probably due to the recent birth of Clynes' daughter. In "Life Is," the singer chants the title phrase like a mantra. "Life is what you choose to make of it even if you think it isn't so. Life is what you choose to make of it. Will you stop or will you grow. What to do with all that pain and with all that frustration. What to do with all that fear. Can't believe it's all my creation." In "Childhood Dreams," she takes the chanting in a more aggressive direction, all the while interspersing softer passages of piano and cello. "In my dreams there are no liars, only words of true desires. In my dreams there's no pollution. There's no need for a constitution. In my dreams, there's no hours. There's just time and it's all ours." Clynes rocks the mantra on "A Good Man." "There once was a good man who lived like a saint. And there once was a good man who lived life without complaints. But there once was a good man who admitted that he was wrong. Yet there once was this good man and his courage made him strong."
Sadness pervades a number of tracks, possibly inspired by the passing of Clynes' beloved aunt. The haunting instrumental, Les Larmes, works variations on a short, wistful melody gradually descending into the chaos of John Cale/Velvet Underground style cello. The music takes a jazzy turn on the somber "Tuesday's Rain." "I tore you off and I threw you away. There's nothing left, nothing more to say... But now you are knocking on my door. Oh no, no more. And you're here again, Tuesday rain." In the Gothic "When You're Dead," Clynes repeatedly intones arpeggios. "Where will you be when you're dead? Where you think that you're going when you're dead? I think all that's not one is in your head."
In the end, joy eclipses sorrow in Susan Clynes' world. So beautifully expressed in "Butterflies." "Butterflies all around, making life, making sound. Flowers dancing, rainbows prancing." Frankly "Life Is..." astounds me -- so indescribably original that it takes my confounded breath away. Great music lives forever!