New York-based instrumental group SUSS play a distinctive form of ambient Americana, emphasizing the droning qualities of country music and Western film scores. Combining the high-lonesome sound of pedal steel guitars and harmonicas with meditative synthesizers and loops, the group’s music owes as much to Brian Eno’s collaborations with Daniel Lanois as to the film scores of Ennio Morricone and Ry Cooder. The band’s self-released 2018 debut, Ghost Box, became a surprise underground hit and a staple of ambient playlists, leading to the band’s signing with Northern Spy.

Two of the band’s members, Bob Holmes and Gary Leib, were also members of the country-slanted new wave group Rubber Rodeo during the ’80s. SUSS’ other players are pedal steel guitarist Jonathan Gregg and guitarist Pat Irwin (formerly of the B-52s and the Raybeats).

Cunningham Trio

“‘A Better Ghost’ is a great example of how the best recipes can be made with just a few ingredients. Such an organic sound is rare and beautiful to witness. The compositions and explorations on the record make you feel like sounds aren’t being made, but grown from the roots up; leaves you’ve never seen on a tree you grew up climbing.” –Sen Morimoto

Jeremy Cunningham and Dustin Laurenzi have been near-inseparable collaborators for years, working in countless groups together across Chicago’s vibrant jazz community. Their new album A Better Ghost finds them in collaboration with Los Angeles-based bassist/producer Paul Bryan, and is the product of phone-recorded improvisations and experiments dating back to 2017. With Laurenzi creating sequences and samples on the OP-1 synthesizer while on the road with Bon Iver, and Cunningham developing drum parts and melodic fragments, the two began finding a distinct direction to take the work, sharpening and editing these snippets into cohesive compositions.

While Cunningham and Laurenzi have collaborated this way for years, they decided to add Los Angeles based musician Paul Bryan, the Grammy-winning producer, engineer, and bassist who co-produced Cunningham’s Northern Spy debut 2019 LP The Weather Up There to finish these pieces. Adding bass parts and a producer’s ear to these songs, Bryan’s vital contributions were the missing link. “Paul really understood the vision of our music and added so much to what we’d already recorded. At a certain point it was a no-brainer to expand the duo to a trio” says Laurenzi. On A Better Ghost, there’s a euphoric melding of Chicago and LA’s jazz worlds present with features from prolific saxophonist Josh Johnson, legendary drummer Jay Bellerose, and Cunningham’s Resavoir bandmate and leader, trumpeter Will Miller. The resulting tracks are the product of years-long collaborators expanding their deep chemistry.