What would it sound like if ambient pioneer Brian Eno had produced the Western film scores of Ennio Morricone? We’ll never know, but we’re now a step closer thanks to SUSS, an NYC quintet whose members (Bob Holmes, Pat Irwin, Gary Leib, Jonathan Gregg and William Garrett) have worked in various capacities with Lydia Lunch, the B-52s, Rubber Rodeo, k.d. Lang, David Bowie, John Cale, Ed Sheeran, Wilco, Norah Jones, The War On Drugs, Burt Bacharach, and countless others. More than a literal reconstruction of an imagined collaboration between Eno and Morricone, their debut album Ghost Box opened a door onto a world where ambient music and country-western make for natural bedfellows. That world, as it turns out, is the one we already live in — it just took someone to make the connection. For Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist and cowpunk pioneer Bob Holmes, that connection has been hiding in plain sight for decades. The catalyst behind SUSS, Holmes views electronic acts like Boards of Canada and shoegaze icons like My Bloody Valentine as more recent avatars of the “high lonesome” vibe that we tend to think of strictly in terms of traditional roots music. In that light, you can trace the melancholic sprawl of classic titles by both of those acts back to Hank Williams. Looking at that lineage in reverse then begs the question: What is twang, anyway, if not a form of ambiance?
2019 saw the release of High Line, a new path into the high country for the NYC ambient country quintet. The follow-up release to their acclaimed album Ghost Box (Expanded) on Northern Spy Records, High Line explores the horizon line where the cosmic meets the landscape of the American West. Drawing on influences such as Ry Cooder and Bruce Langhorne while forging new paths alongside fellow travelers like Daniel Lanois and Boards of Canada, SUSS uses a combination of acoustic guitars, pedal steel, harmonica, mandolin and synthesized sound manipulation to take the listener on a blissful and mythic trip into the unknown.