AMN Reviews: SUSS – Promise (2020; Northern Spy Records)

SUSS is a reminder that avant-garde music does not have to be overtly outside. None of the tracks on Promise are likely to clear a room. Instead, this group’s western / desert / ambient stylings are mostly unobtrusive and often a pleasant listen. Employing instrumentation that evokes classic Americana (steel guitar, baritone guitar, ebow, harmonium, synths, and loops), the New York quartet offers up eight new tracks of slowly evolving themes.

Most of these pieces are based on a simple motif that is strummed or plucked, then repeated or looped. The steel, synths, and harmonium provide background layers and short, gentle drones to accompany guitar leads. There is a country twang unmistakably present, but also long-held and gently distorted guitar tones. When combined with twisted notes and echoing patterns, this adds up to a lilting and psychedelic feel that increases as the album progresses.

Overall, Promise explores more melancholy moods and sparse textures than SUSS’s first two releases. Given that the album was recording during the 2020 pandemic, this is not terribly surprising. But these tracks also exhibit a few much-needed rays of hope, with upbeat guitar playing on Drift and Home, as just two examples.

If creative stacking of simple lines evocative of wide open spaces and played at a measured pace is your thing, Promise comes recommended. It will be released December 4th on Northern Spy.