Anna von Hausswolff

Shifting seamlessly from Dr Kiss Kiss to Funeral For My Future Children…

Cerys Matthews played an interesting track on 28 July 2013 – and I made a note of Mountains Crave by Anna von Hausswolff. I checked it out at Christmas, fell in love with some of the finest music I’ve ever heard, and posted three versions on 2 & 3 January.

Here’s another from Anna, with high quality video showing the outcome of a search for a suitably atmospheric church with a pipe organ

So who is Anna von Hausswolff ? Well she has a website, and within it I found this review of Ceremony, which provides plenty of good background:

I don’t know what you expect from a new record by Anna von Hausswolff. More of those gothic, dark and fragile ballad-atmospheres marking her debut album Singing from the Grave? A series of easy-hummed melodies adapted to contemporary pop radio formats? Or something more adventurous, dangerous, unpredictable?

The lastmentioned quality has always been there, since Anna von Hausswolff started to do her solo performances in and around Gothenburg in 2007: the powerful, contradictory and ambiguous expressions that made the songs take unsuspected routes.

But on Ceremony this particular freedom has come to the forefront and very centre of the music. It’s a radical change making both the songs and the sounds bigger, wider, deeper, sharper, more transient. It’s like the music went up in the air, travelling in its own balloon. You can hear it in the fabulous ending of ”Goodbye”, where the harmonies are reaching higher and higher, step by step, in the song’s own ascension.

Strange that nobody has tried it before: using the church organ as the main instrument and focus point in pop music. As soon as you hear it, for example in the compelling Beach Boys harmonies that make the foundation of the song ”Mountains Crave”, the organ sounds become a music room of fortune and luck. Yes, a fantastic sense of freedom is established and captured, and the church organ turns out to be the perfect synthesizer, a phantasy machine with unlimited capacities for different expressions.

To categorize this music by genre terms seems just stupid. The whole point is that the songs allow themselves to be everything at once, and the church organ is the one confirmation of this complexity and immediate sense of presence.”It’s all there, it’s all there”, Anna von Hausswolff sings, and that’s how it is: All different times are present, the baroque world that gave birth to the chorals of JS Bach and the defused darkness where the extended and raw drone sounds get their power, and these different worlds meet in astounding ways.

The music says that we are all ambiguous creatures, and that’s the feeling I’ve had, walking around in months, with these songs in my ears. The songs move without hindrance, from one state of mind to the other, and have a remarkable capacity to fuse with the landscape or the room. There’s a sense of trust and a listening to the changes of light and time, that make the music strong and grand. It changes incessantly, it’s completely free.

Magnus Haglund
Writer and critic

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