Susan Clynes is a Belgian singer, pianist and songwriter who lives in Brussels. She's the wife of keyboard player Antoine Guenet, who's well known for his contributions on albums made by The Wrong Object, SH.TG.N and Universe Zero. After taking classical and jazz piano lessons and attending jazz workshops while in high school, Susan chose to follow her heart, shunning a more traditional course of university studies and career path in order to study music composition, and earning a Master's Degree at the Gent Conservatory.
In the early stages of this pursuit, Susan released her first (and only previous) album; a piano trio effort from 2005 called Sugar For A Dream. Susan also appeared on the Wrong Object's latest album After The Exhibition (2013, see review). She was featured on the track Glass Cubes, which was penned by her husband. Now, one year later, she finally made it on her own with her first solo album. She named it Life Is....
After hearing the first couple of tracks on this release, it's very easy to compare her talents with those of Tori Amos; a singer-songwriter from the U.S.A., who also mainly performs behind her acoustic piano. Furthermore, she has the same typical voice, which has many times been compared to the likes of Kate Bush. In a way, the comparisons can be made with Amos and maybe Bush, however Susan moves towards other musical directions music wise a lot more than the previous two did on their album releases. On Life Is... you certainly hear the same kind of singer-song writing style of compositions, but they have a more jazzy undertone. At the same time, the progressive rock influences are fewer than you can discover in the music of Tori and Kate. Does this mean they are less enjoyable for lovers of our beloved genre? Well I guess not, because otherwise a review wouldn't have appeared on this website. However, you do have to enjoy music that's related to jazzy influences and, in a way, sounds as if it has improvised parts a lot of the time. Besides the jazzy influences, can you say she also used classical influences throughout the entire album, most of all on the tracks which featured Simon Lenski on cello and effects. The talents of Susan Clynes certainly shine on the entire album and most of all show how strong her compositions are, which she writes behind the piano. On her debut album she wanted to make music that bridges the different worlds of song-writing and instrumentals consisting of set compositions and improvisations. She wanted to talk from the heart, but not forget there's the mind also, and the latter she expresses in her lyrics, that were most of all inspired by the birth of her daughter Ileana, and the loss of her beloved aunt Yoka at the same time.
Sure, the music on Life Is... is not everyone's cup of tea. Susan Clynes moves into a direction music wise, that many lovers of progressive rock will avoid after hearing the first notes of this album. It will most of all appeal to fans of the afore mentioned Tori Amos, but guess what; Life Is... still full of surprises, so take a chance and try out this release, just like I did. Maybe you'll love it as much as I did!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Esther Ladiges)
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