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SUSS - High Line Music Album Reviews

On the New York ensemble’s second album, their arid ambient-country landscapes take on a different tone, sounding less like a vacation than a dinner bell for the apocalypse.

On their 2018 debut album, Ghost Box, the New York ensemble SUSS evoked the American Southwest in mystical, ambient-country instrumentals. After their song “Late Night Call” attracted millions of Spotify plays, the band updated Ghost Box that fall, fleshing out their original work with vivid new tracks. On their second album, High Line, their arid sonic landscapes take on a different tone, sounding less like a vacation than a dinner bell for the apocalypse.


High Line begins gently in “Salt Flats,” its dusty swirls of synths building around slow-burning guitar. Soon, though, SUSS establish an ominous, lingering tone with “Wetlands.” Pedal steel approaches in piercing high range before low strings ripple up below, and dark electric guitar gradually surfaces amid the waves. The bent guitar notes burbling within the pedal steel’s elastic framework are gently combative, like a jellyfish bumping against the walls of an aquarium tank.

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High Line offers less immersion than Ghost Box; its compositions feel like anxious, half-remembered dreams, evaporating just before they unfold fully. Spaced throughout the record, High Line’s trio of dune-titled pieces—“Blue Dune I,” “Blue Dune II,” and “Dunes III”—spread lingering tension. A swampy acoustic guitar arrives and disappears like an itinerant stranger near the end of “Blue Dune I,” pushing away background prickles of gently scraped strings. The acoustic guitar is more restless on “Blue Dune II,” hopping around with restrained half-strums; on “Dunes III,” distorted electric guitars wriggle alongside synths and pedal steel, with even darker synth flares adding a sinister foil. Like wind-shaped dunes themselves, the song trio shifts gradually, as if controlled by titanic forces that can be felt but never seen.

Tension seeps into “Too Young to Die,” which opens with a clear, lightly twangy guitar melody that’s subsumed by a thrumming bassline and sporadic background hisses. Turning skyward, “Ursa Major” is more mercurial, beginning brightly on wavering channels of pedal steel, fiddle drone, and synth fizz. It changes midway, turning to stormy post-rock with the arrival of lumbering drums and splashy cymbals before closing with a single, sparkling chime. Then SUSS finish on a serene note with “Sundowner,” the distinct metallic sparkle of a mandolin pairing with fluttering synths and blooming acoustic guitars. It’s a welcome uplift, though it doesn’t feel exactly hopeful, and so it suits the present moment. High Line is more clipped, on edge, and overcast than anything SUSS has done before—but then again, so is the world they live in.


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About Udara Madusanka

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