When their self-released 2018 debut blew up—not less than by ambient requirements—the New York Metropolis quartet SUSS appeared to have appeared from out of nowhere, seasoned with secret historical past. Grey-maned and black-jacketed, they appeared just like the sorts of downtown art-rock trenchers who reside within the depths of John Zorn liner notes, but they sounded how a Ry Cooder movie rating would possibly if heard upon waking from mild medical sedation to a stupendous dawn. In truth, their background was each extra predictive and extra offbeat than might have been guessed: Two of the 4 multi-instrumentalists, Bob Holmes and Gary Leib, had origins in Rubber Rodeo, a energetic bronco within the Eighties cowpunk pen, earlier than they galloped off into careers in cartooning and youngsters’s exhibits.
As SUSS, with Jonathan Gregg and Pat Irwin, as a substitute of chicken-frying new wave’s theatrics, they’d forged the holy relics of nation and bluegrass—pedal metal, mandolin, dobro, harmonica—right into a sonorous desert the place ideas like sluggish and quick after which and now change into meaningless. Their music dilates the world to a high-lonesome level, a pastoral quintessence that doesn’t change a lot because it steadily opens and closes, telescopes and recedes. That metropolis boys are conjuring these mythic plains and large Western skies makes it a double-glazed dream—the kind of outdoors that exists solely within the cinema of the thoughts. They name it “ambient nation,” which they declare to have pioneered.
It was savvy to embrace this time period, whose “rise” was duly touted by The Guardian in a 2020 piece on SUSS, the pedal-steel experimenter Chuck Johnson, and some others. Little doubt the stifling early days of the pandemic had been the right time for such a style to rear its head, although it’s puzzling that nobody had actually tried out the framing earlier than. In spite of everything, the space between Brian Eno and Ennio Morricone, the 2 brightest lodestars of SUSS’s music, just isn’t so nice—not with the likes of Daniel Lanois already ready patiently on the midpoint. Americana itself is stuffed with droning devices and atmospheric minimalism, and feeding it into ambient music’s light jaws is nothing new. If anybody has ever pulled off the inverse, it’s in all probability Richard Buckner.
So in case you enter SUSS’s new, self-titled double LP primed for the revelation of a brand new style hybrid, you may be let down. A lot of it’s extra like up to date live performance music, of the adventurous but rigorous sort you’d hear on the Large Ears Competition, than both ambient or nation. The sound design is sculpted, structural, and beautiful. The music just isn’t rawboned or ramshackle; it stands as tall and clear as a brand-new pair of cowboy boots. However it undoubtedly does brim with strikingly recontextualized nation tropes, and it pulses with dolor, energy, inspiration, and comfort, it doesn’t matter what you name it.