Susan Bear Algorithmic Mood Music

Lost Map
28th June 2024

Format Info

LP - black vinyl
LP with exclusive poster (COLLECT IN STORE ONLY PLEASE)

Whether as bassist, keyboardist, guitarist, producer, songwriter, sound-designer or something in between, Susan Bear has variously worked with Lost Map artists including Tuff LovePictish Trail and Martha Ffion, as well as The PastelsTracyanne & DannyMalcolm MiddletonPoster Paints, Karine Polwart, Amandah Wilkinson (Bossy Love) and Goodnight Louisa. She has also collaborated on a variety of theatre projects with the likes of the Traverse Theatre, the Tron Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland. Her debut solo album Creature was released in 2020 and featured the Spotify and Apple Music playlisted song ‘Floating’ (“Gentle, dreamy mood music” – The Scotsman). It was followed in 2022 by Alter, which received support from BBC 6 Music’s Radcliffe & Maconie and Amy Lamé and BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway and Roddy Hart. In a Lost Map label profile by Bandcamp Daily, writer Will Ainsley singled out Alter as a personal favourite. “There are so many excellent things put out by Lost Map,” he wrote, “but Alter has my heart.”

Algorithmic Mood Music sees Suse kick things in a whole new direction, with a record that’s all about “my relationship with music and making music,” as she puts it. Written and recorded in dribs and drabs over three years, it was totally self-made in her home studio, like all of Suse’s music to date has been. The title is a sarcastic reference to the way so much music today is designed to satisfy streaming service algorithms, by rounding off all the rough edges, and reducing complex and messy human emotions to one-size-fits-all phoney feelings.

“I usually make quite genre mixed albums,” says Suse, “and in today’s world MOOD MUSIC (music all of a similar genre and instrumentation) does well on streaming services, as it works in the background of doing tasks rather than for active listening, so it can be streamed in the millions. There are also quite a few tracks on this that are probably less ‘song-y’ than I usually make, so it’s maybe a bit more mood-music-y than usual.
“I was thinking a lot about human ‘mistakes’ and how much I like them in recordings, music and art, and how often for clients / when making music where I need to be invisible, I edit out the mistakes. But for my own solo work, I keep them in, because it makes me sound like me. All these tiny things add up to something sounding human, and help people connect with it. In modern pop music these things are slowly being edited away so much that I sometimes wonder if teenagers who only listen to ‘the charts’ know what a real human voice (that hasn’t been tuned) sounds like. I like all these technologies, but I’m quite interested in new norms etc.”

Voiced using robotic text to speech to help introduce the album’s feeling of detachment in an increasingly digitally synthetic world, shimmering opener ‘Three Dimensional’ is an uplifting note-to-self written to remind Suse, she says, “that I’m not one thing or the other, I’m loads of things layered on top of each other, and from moment to moment what I am and what I feel changes a bit. I think everyone’s the same. Infinitely complicated.” Harkening back to some of the best moments on Suse’s previous two solo albums, ‘Glass Tunnel’ is an enveloping, richly textured dream-pop song full of lush harmonies and swooping guitar breaks. It’s about watching the world change around her and wondering if she ought not to be changing with it. “People get married, have kids, move away and I stay still.”

A heart-shaking electronic dance floor-filler with hints of Caribou and Jamie xx, ‘It’s You’ is about “going on a mad nostalgia trip,” says Suse, “and your brain tricking yourself into thinking the past is always better than the present.” ‘Shake (Say Yes)’ is a gleeful bit-crunching retro computer rave, made using old school gear including an Atari ST520, a Tr-808s, an Op1 and a Casio SK-5 sampling keyboard. “I usually make music that isn’t very fun,” says Suse, “but I wanted to make something fun, and also to get off my computer. So, I got onto another, much older computer to make this. I think it sounds pretty mad, but I like it.”

Arguably the loveliest song on the record, the warm and woozily textured ‘Wet Dry World’, is a love song to going out running among the streets of Glasgow, something which Suse credits with improving her mental health vastly since she started doing it. Time spent pounding the pavements and pathways of the city in the cold and rain helps her process thoughts and gain valuable perspective on how lucky she is to have a body that lets her move and sweat and feel her heart pounding in her chest. “It reminds me I’m alive,” she sings.

Other Releases by Susan Bear