New York-based trio SUSS bridge atmospheric minimalism with classic Americana instrumentation, pioneering a genre they call ‘ambient country’ – a term that aptly defines their vivid and singular sound. SUSS have been described by UNCUT as if “Eno’s Apollo Atmospheres crash-landed in America’s Sonoran Desert”, and by Pitchfork as “neither rawboned nor ramshackle … [their] elegantly composed brand of ambient country stands as tall and clean as a brand-new pair of cowboy boots”.
In the spring of 2023, SUSS sold out four nights at New York City’s CultureLab and made their festival debut at the Big Ears Festival. Their self-titled fourth album, SUSS, was number five on PopMatters’ Top 10 Best Ambient Albums of 2022.
Composed of veteran musicians Pat Irwin (B-52s), Bob Holmes (Rubber Rodeo), and Jonathan Gregg (The Linemen), the group made the decision to carry on as a trio after the loss of founding member Gary Leib in 2020. Crafting their cinematic soundscapes with the resumes to back them up, SUSS weave pedal steel, harmonica, harmonium, mandolin, baritone guitar, and National guitar with synthesisers and loops, creating a massive and high lonesome sound.
Andrew Tuttle is a best-kept secret of the Australian musical underground – a songwriter, composer and improviser who has collaborated with Matmos, Steve Gunn, Charlie Parr, Gwenifer Raymond, Luke Schneider and many others. Tuttle’s music exists serenely and purposefully in a space where the five-string banjo and the six-string acoustic guitar weave in and out of processed electronics. Like time-lapse photography, it unfolds its colours and textures with an astonishing gracefulness and wonderment.
Tuttle’s discography, including five solo albums and multiple collaborative projects on labels including Room40, Basin Rock, Mistletone and BSR, navigate as a cosmic missive into subtropical landscapes. Golden plucks of banjo, gauzy electronics and cosmic guitar shimmer into gloriously expansive melodies that conjure peace and space, comfort and wonder.
Tuttle’s release and touring schedule has included performances in revered Australian and European locations including Melbourne Recital Centre, Cafe OTO (London), Phoenix Central Park (Sydney), The Tivoli (Brisbane), Paradiso Noord (Amsterdam), MONA / Dark MOFO (Hobart), Botanique (Bruxelles), Galeria ZDB (Lisboa), and Brisbane Powerhouse.
We’ve always wanted to do longer pieces, but had a hard time figuring out how we would release them within the context or format of our regular album releases. We’ve also been a huge fan of Andrew’s banjo work and have been looking for a unique opportunity where we could work together. Our piece ‘Rising’ turned out to be a great way to explore each of these challenges. The piece started with Andrew and Pat creating short synth beds that reflected different tones and moods. There was no structure, no initial theme, no particular direction, but the synth beds evoked emotions and vibes. Bob then took these beds and looped them and arranged them in a way that created a dynamic framework that stretched over the course of the nearly 30-minute piece. Then the fun began. (SUSS)
We had no idea of where it would go at this juncture, but Andrew took the first whack at it, and the results were amazing. With a combination of natural and effected banjo sounds, he took the track on an Appalachian odyssey, the likes of which we had never experienced before. It was a beautiful departure from the western Americana landscapes that SUSS’s music is usually associated with, and we were quite happy to go on this new Southern adventure. Before we knew it, using a primary palette of mandolin, pedal steel and treated piano, we had an epic piece of music that seemed to echo some of the passages of Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’. This was obviously new territory for us and we credit Andrew’s beautiful banjo work for getting us there.
I’ve been a fan of SUSS’ music since their Ghost Box album a few years back. We’d been talking about how we could work on some music together and when the Longform suggestion came up, it felt like a natural fit. The opportunity to create a single album length work was something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but could never satisfactorily make happen on my own without it turning into a collage or mixtape vibe. (Andrew Tuttle)
It was so enjoyable to create a proper piece of music which whilst not being composed as such, did have a strong sense of structure and a true collaborative spirit. Though it was something that we always wanted to do, we found that composing and recording long ambient pieces is much harder than it seems. To be able to find themes, motifs, riffs, etc that can be repeated and grow over long periods of time takes a lot of patience. The main thing is to allow yourself to let the track tell you where it wants to go and then let it build organically from there. Secondly, you have to give the listener the credit for having the same kind of patience that you need in the creation process. Then adding the challenge of a collaborative process with an artist you’ve never worked with before, and the whole thing becomes an exercise in patient, deep listening. What are the melodies hiding behind the melodies? What are the rhythms hidden inside the beat? Finding and reacting to the answers to these questions is one of the joys of making this kind of music, and hopefully the joys of listening to it as well. We put a lot of trust in the listener, hoping that they will stick with the music long enough to find and enjoy these same unlocked secrets. (SUSS)
I love the idea of, and diving into, deep listening. As someone who has a fairly hyperactive mind in general, I absolutely love grounding myself in long form works where a sense of time is melded within the music. My favourite durational works are some of my favourite pieces of music full stop. Outside of music, I’m a huge fan of and quite heavily inspired by cricket – a game that itself can go for days without a rapid conclusion. Some of my favourite moments of solitude have in fact been combining the two – having From The Side of Man and Womankind by Tony Conrad and Faust on loop when watching a game live was certainly a fascinating and enlightening experience. (Andrew Tuttle)