Charles Baudelaire's "L'invitation au voyage" was originally published in Les Fleurs du mal in 1857, a book accused of being une outrage aux bonnes mœurs (roughly, "an insult to good manners" or "morality"). The poem is laden with a sensuousness that speaks beyond our temporal concerns, imagining love as a destination outside this world, perhaps an infinite one. And yeah, it's pretty hot. Both the book and this poem, in particular, have inspired a spectrum of musical readings, from French composer Henri Duparc's haunting portrait to cellist Julia Kent's droning daydream.
The Norwegian artist Susanna, in addition to her originals, is a master interpreter of song, having excavated the likes of AC/DC, Leonard Cohen and Nico into spacious ballads. Her new record, Go Dig My Grave, mixes traditional songs with a little bit of Joy Division and Lou Reed, but also a riveting version of Baudelaire's poem.
"Quite recently I started to read Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil," she writes in a press release. "I fell in love with the beautiful poems and got the urge to sing some of them. This one is the first of the songs I have written to this poetry, and a wonderful mysterious world has opened up to me. 'Invitation to the Voyage' is a dream, or singing it feels like entering a dreamlike state of mind. I get a very strong sense of being in between worlds with the beautiful words of Baudelaire in this poem."
This setting of "Invitation to the Voyage" hums with baroque harp and swells of accordion and fiddle. Susanna herself, with a voice that pulls warmth from the darkest depths, breathes oxygen onto the last embers of an affair, asking: "Where all this beauty, all this measure / Richness, serenity and pleasure."