Trailed by ‘When I Met You’s brooding menace, MADAM – aka Sukie Smith – releases her cathartic third album ‘Back to the Sea’ on Shillingboy Records (via Cargo)
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Classically trained at Central School of Speech and Drama Sukie Smith began her acting career working with Nic Roeg (The Witches) Mike Newell (A Summer Story) and on improvised/collaborative films like Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy and with Neil Hunter & Tom Hunsinger (Lawless Heart) before moving into music with her acclaimed 2007 debut ‘In Case of Emergency’ (Reveal Records)
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As one might guess from its title, ‘Back to the Sea’ is thematically linked to the circle of life, beginnings and endings. “This record is an ANTI DEATH MANIFESTO” states Sukie. “It is a love letter to human nature, an acceptance, a recognition of a certain amount of bitter glory in everything.”
Musically, Sukie’s heart is aligned here with Cat Power, Soap and Skin (‘for the emotional bravery’), Ana Brun (‘magical song-writing’), Portishead and The Dirty Three (‘for anarchy of sound’). Written and produced by Sukie, her band on the record comprises Jeff Townsin (drums), Gareth Moss (bass), Sarah Gill (cello/saw) and guitarists John Robertson & Adam Franklin (Swervedriver) with additional guitar from Throw Down Bones’ Frankie Frankie on a couple of tracks.
That line up is bolstered by an extraordinarily diverse array of guest musicians:Charlotte Glasson (go-to sax/ clarinet/ brass girl for Nick Cave) performs on ‘Murder Park’; Cuban jazz trumpeter Yelfris Valdes plays on ‘Three Sixes’ & ‘Murder Park’ (Sukie met him while both were involved in a project based around the work of concert pianist Philippa Schuyler, due to be part of an arts performance festival in Leeds in 2018). Composer Marc Teitler plays grand piano on ‘No Ghost’ and David Michael Curry (Thalia Zedek) viola on epic closer ‘The Connection’ – delivering his contributions from a makeshift recording studio in a motel bathroom ‘in the arse end of America’ while he was out on tour (‘I have pictures!’ threatens/ promises Sukie).
Finally, sound artist Michael Begg (Forvea Hex/ Human Greed) added beautiful glass harmonica sounds on ‘I Am Your Home’ and a foghorn symphony on ‘Back to the Sea’ (Sukie and he trade vocals/ instrumentation on their respective recordings, Sukie singing the lead vocal on Human Greed track ‘Dark Glass Striptease’ and voices his song-poem ‘Heat Death’).
The album’s touchstone is its significantly upbeat title track and opener, ‘Back to the Sea’ with it’s ‘rise up!’ chant that challenges one to seize the day. It is the emotional response to ‘being in the hospital room when my father died’ – understandably a pivotal moment: a klaxon call that became a manifesto and a promise ‘to make your bones count’. On a similar redemptive level is ‘I Am Your Home’, “a song to myself, a reconnection with yourself after a bout of self destruction,” says Sukie. “That joyous massive outro is all the strands of thinking that mesh together to pull you though.”