Second solo album by Susan Matthews
Susan Matthews – Bruiser
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. 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 [7/10]
Connexion Bizarre, Feb 2007
Susan Matthews – ‘Bruiser’ CDR
After the critically acclaimed welcoming of her debut album ‘SirenWire69’
UK based avant-garde composer Susan Mathews returns with her second
full-length album ‘Bruiser’.
Now the thing I like about Susan which has to be said before we go any
further is her unpretentiousness. It’s the way she produces her own
recordings simply because she wants to. It’s not a case of trying to be
cool or quirky or different or that her recordings are going to make her
rich. It’s just the case that Susan wants to record the music that she has
buried deep inside of her soul. And this passion and simplicity of
purpose shines through in every element of this CD. Whether it be the
home-made sleeve or the professional look of the CDR or the myriad of
compositions that make up ‘Bruiser’, you get the impression that its all
done because Susan wants or needs to and for no other reason. And because
of this I can’t help but have the up most respect for what Susan does and
how she does it. Ok now that’s said on with the review.
Still encased in shrouds of the abstract ‘Bruiser’ pulls together ten
tracks that span a huge array of sounds, ideas and structures in their
composition and presentation. From the delectate folky sounds of the
flute based track ‘Fortune’ to the haunting piano and voice assemble of
‘Summers Over’ to the childlike qualities and distorted nightmarishness of
‘mbox 2’, ‘Bruiser’ takes a complex spectrum of sounds, sources, vocals,
samples and manipulated noises which Susan delicately moulds in to self
contained snippets of ideas that make up each track.
Like the blurred reality of dreams, Susan’s compositions fade in and out
of focus with sounds and noises melting into one anther to create
something completely different and unrecognisable yet somehow familiar.
One minute you’ll recognise a sound or fragment of noise and the next it’s
gone leaving only the smallest elements of recognition.
The production on ‘Bruiser’ seems a lot more polished then its predecessor
making the experience of Susan’s compositions more crisp and clear.
Likewise the sound and atmosphere of the album has taken on a more mature,
complex and thought out feel to it. All of which adds to the depth and
substance the album presents.
Musically the albums flits between styles and output – from the abstract
soundscapes with distorted vocals of the beautifully haunting ‘Hushed
Corrosive/Lifelore’ to sound manipulations and noise ‘cut-ups’, to
delicate ambient washes of sound to more malevolent and dark ambient
soundscapes – all with occasional vocals subtly interwoven within them.
With the themes of parent and child rearing their head and time and time
again there is a very personal element to ‘Bruiser’ which gently draws the
listener in to Susan’s work here.
As with her previous work certain influences are noticeable here – early
Current 93 the experimental edge of early Virgin Prunes and a dash of
Nurse With Wound – but these only act as a general guide line for Susan to
construct her own ideas, influences and feelings into an audible output
which is very much hers alone.
With a diverse, highly interesting and arresting general sound and
atmosphere Susan has managed to put together a wonderfully impressive
album that has more than enough originality and presence about it that it
should hopefully give her the exposure to the wider audience she whole
heartedly deserves to get.
Lee powell Judas Kiss Magazine, February 2007
Susan Matthews – Bruiser
Siren Wire Recordings
SUSAN MATTHEWS est l’auteur d’une poignée de cdrs disponibles sur cdbaby, dont SirenWire69 et Bruiser . Noyée dans une chape gris sombre (à l’image du design de ses disques), sa musique se veut l’articulation d’un malaise. Ainsi, tout n’est question que d’incision, ablation, forage, raclage, curetage, éviscération ; les variations stéréophoniques agissant comme un scalpel grignotant l’intimité du tympan à grand renfort de grésillements et crépitements numériques. Un déferlement de clics avortés, bleeps sinusoïdaux, fréquences brouillées et compressions vissées jouant sur la différence de volume, d’étirement et de résonance pour mieux décontenancer l’auditoire et forcer son attention. Les boucles dérapent, trébuchent, craquent là où les basses grondent impétueusement, et malgré tout ces stridences demeurent servies par une assise mélodique aux reliefs acérés. La voix affligée et étouffée de Susan traversant ce couloir déformé de pulsations cardiaques sert de fil d’Ariane, ultime trace de vie organique et témoin de vives déchirures (nouvelle forme de beauté prônée par les VIRGIN PRUNES , chant des glaces). “Is it your life i miss when i cry every night ? Is it your voice i hear when i open my lungs ? is it your hope i hear when when i scream out loud ? is it your face i see when i look back in me ?”, “mbox” est une comptine déstabilisante pour fausse-couches. L’émotion est froide, mais se montre vite dense et expressive. Superbe. En strates multiples les micro-mouvements numériques enlacent les drones brouillardeuses, puis sous le sédiment de la vie microscopique alternent entre agressions amplifiées et silences cassés ; comme le cadre plus ou moins bien ciselé d’un silence absolu, secrètement recherché…
Amadeo, In_tensioN, November 2006
Translation: SUSAN MATTHEWS is the author of a handle of cdrs (most of them available on cdbaby), among which stand “SirenWire69” and “Bruiser”. Drowned under a dark grey avalanche (in the image of her records’ artwork), her music aims to express / be the articulation of an uneasiness. Thus everything here is a question of incision, ablation, drilling, scraping, curetting, evisceration; stereophonic variations acting like a scalpel nibbling the eardrums’ intimacy with great reinforcement of numerical glitches and cracklings. A surge of aborted clicks, sinusoidal bleeps, scrambled frequencies and screwed compressions exploiting the difference of volume & intensity, stretchings and resonance in order to further disconsert the listener and to force / focus his attention. The loops skid, stumble, crack whilst the bass-sounds impetuously thunder, and in spite of all these stridencies remained served by a luminous melody with sharp-edged reliefs. Susan’s afflicted and choked voice crossing this deformed corridor of cardiac pulsations is used as wire of Ariane, ultimate trace of organic and witness of sharp wrenches (new forms of beauty as preached by the VIRGIN PRUNES, song from the ices). “Is it your life I miss when I cry every night? Is it your voice I hear when I open my lungs? is it your hope I hear when when I scream out loud? is it your face I see when I look back in me?”, “mbox” is a awe-inspiringly beautiful and destabilizing rhyme for miscarriages. The emotion is cold, but is quickly shown dense, vivid and expressive all at once. Superb. In multiple layers the numerical micro-movements intertwine with foggy drones, and then, under the sediment of the microscopic life, alternate between amplified aggressions and broken silences; just like the framework more or less well-clipped of an absolute silence, secretly required and longed for…
BRUISER , by Susan Matthews. (CD)
BRUISER follows on directly from Susan’s first solo project, SIRENWIRE69 (2005), and takes her hypnotic harmonies and experimental industrial noise to a new level of despair and delight. Intenesly personal, projecting hope and trauma in equal measure, BRUISER tangles the brutal with the fragile in a forbidding texture of sound that penetrates on so many levels at once, it’s like being touched by a ghost.
Almost beyond description, BRUISER is the soundtrack to a film you’re never likely to see, it’s music that pulls abject horror out of the mundane and displays it with the beauty of Silent Hill and the style of David Lynch on one of his moody days. It’s totally brilliant, even when it hurts.
Dan Schaffer, Live Journal, October 2006
‘Bruiser’ is… simply stunning, even better than ‘SirenWire69’ if that’s possible. Just love the way it builds on the last album but also takes the work in even more interesting directions… Absolutely engaging and beautiful in a melancholic way. A work of importance and inspiration. A major talent indeed.
Shaun Blezard, Earth Monkey Productions, 2006