Belgian chanteuse gives a big time intimation on her international debut.
Since Jacques Brel’s oeuvre became a part of a global collective consciousness, his musical compatriots have gained a reputation of introspective, if emotive, souls. It surely is the case with this artiste whose voice was first widely heard on "After The Exhibition" by another MoonJune act, THE WRONG OBJECT that her husband Antoine Guenet is a member of. A hidden gem of a singer, Clynes’ only studio effort is 2005’s “Sugar For A Dream,” a teenager’s work, but her current concerts reveal a mature musician. “Life Is…” is a selection of three performances, each in a different format, yet be it solo, a duo with a cellist, or a trio with bass and drums, Susan’s voice and piano lie in the centre of what is, alternately, a recital, a chamber charmer and a jazz exercise.
The title track holding the grains of everything she’s to lay out unfurls from a rumination into anthem full of joie de vivre and dim effervescence, and then coils down to a lullaby just before “A Good Man” shatters the serenity to smithereens with the vaudeville wildness as the vocals get rough, while the ivories come forward on the elegant “Pigeon’s Intrusion” and the heartbreak of “Les Larmes” with its Eastern dance and an FX blizzard. It’s impossible not to be moved by the sincerity of “Le Voyage” which comes colored with Chopinesque runs or “Tuesday Rain,” even though its Gallic moodiness feels rather predictable, but some pieces place the deliberate repetition in their focus, like “When You’re Dead” that nails its nagging message on the head for 7 minutes of increasing tension, whereas “Childhood Dreams” breaks out of it in favour of rumba figures only to slide down in sombre melancholy lit by wordless singing.
Whether Susan Clynes will be able to retain such a vigor off-stage, when there’s a turn for a new album, is open to debate, but in the moment, before the audience, she’s gorgeous.