Albums of 2015 #2 - Anna Von Hausswolff - The Miraculous

Anna Von Hausswolff
The Miraculous
Released November 13, 2015
City Slang

If 2013’s Ceremony was Anna Von Hausswolff offering (and I quote my own review) ‘a captivating, uncompromising vision of darkness and the morose that combines dramatic, vastly ambitious cinematic soundscapes with intense vocals and lyrical themes that come across as a study of loss and death’ then just what is the 2015 follow-up The Miraculous? Vastly more ambitious, Gothic and monstrous for a start. A rock opera to challenge even Jim Steinman.

Its centre-piece is the first track we heard from it, actually two songs, a cover with an original entwined within it “Come Wander With Me/Deliverance”. The track feels like a combination and extension of Anna’s first two records, it is big (of course it is), bombastic and evokes earth-shattering emotion throughout, it’s both heavy and light, dark and celestial. An eleven minute opus of long, dense instrumentals and shivery organ chords that reach far beyond this realm and it leaves the listener completely breathless.

Opening track “Discovery” is the other outstanding epic, only nine minutes this time and some seven minutes before Anna’s haunting vocals enter the fray, by that time the untrained ear may be exhausted. The track belongs in Star Wars, a spacey, deathly procession that would capture the atmosphere of a battleship fight perfectly.

In comparison “Evocation” is a rather fleeting three minutes in length yet the terrifying howls that opens proceeds lets you know it’s coming to pack its punch within that time. There’s thick organ drones and murky guitars amongst Anna’s towering, deeply emotive vocals. Anna Von Hausswolff has a master of light and dark light no other, combining the chilly, natural feeling of her native Scandinavian landscapes with frankly terrifying howls and noises. You feel like you’ve landed north of the wall in Game of Thrones and the White Walkers are watching you.

"An Oath" is impassioned vocals that collide to an utterly gargantuan storm of noise yet it’s not until the last track of the album that we hit even a remotely accessible moment, “Stranger” ends the album with an acoustic, softly whispered tale that calms and soothes after the transcendental darkness before it.

The Miraculous is without doubt not an album for all but is without doubt a (nother) masterpiece from this most magnificent of artists. 

Anna von Hausswolff #3 - An Oath

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Anna Von Hausswolff is waiting no time sharing tracks from her forthcoming LP The Miraculous ahead of its release on November 13th. Hot the heels of the incredible "Come Wander With Me/Deliverance" and the terrifying death howl that is "Evocation" comes the latest teaser "An Oath", a track which is arguably the most traditional AVH sounding track heard from the release thus far, where cascading organ swirls and impassioned vocals collide to an epic, hypnotic storm of noise.

If you live in London and are not planning on being at Oslo on December 8th. you probably need to change your plans - tickets.

Anna von Hausswolff - Evocation

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Hold on to your loved ones. I hope you've got a strong heart, you're probably going to need it for things are about to get tense... Genuinely one of my five favourite acts I've discovered in the last five years Anna Von Hausswolf (Broken Twin, Lana Del Rey, Daughter and Chelsea Wolfe are today's count of the others by the way) is gearing up to the release of her third LP The Miraculous and yesterday shared it’s latest track “Evocation”.

Where the albums introduction “Come Wander With Me/Deliverance” was a monstrous, uncompromising opus, an eleven minute journey of long, dense instrumentals and shivery organ chords “Evocation” is a rather fleeting three minutes in length yet the terrifying deathly howl that opens proceeds lets you know it’s coming to pack its punch within that time.

There’s thick organ drones and murky guitars amongst Anna’s towering, deeply emotive vocals with the supporting video a perfect summation of how Anna compliments light and dark, where the combination of beautiful Scandinavian landscapes contrast with the creeping vision of Anna standing motionless and taut like the girl from The Ring as these petrifying crashes of noise fill your senses. Someone pass me a pillow to cower behind please!

The Miraculous is out November 13th. I hope you aren't compiling your favourite albums of the year before then.

Anna Von Hausswolff - Come Wander With Me/Deliverance

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Anna Von Hausswolff released two albums in my top ten releases of 2013, the record she actually put out in the same year Ceremony and her debut, which I arrived to on the back of that LP and a blow-away set at End of the Road festival, Singing From The Grave. Her follow up The Miraculous was announced yesterday for a November 13th release and comes with a share of the best track I’ve heard so far this year; “Come Wander With Me/Deliverance” actually two songs, a cover with an original entwined within it.

The track feels like a combination and extension of those two records, it is big and ambitious (of course it is), bombastic and dramatic and evokes earth-shattering emotion throughout, it’s both heavy and light, dark and celestial. There’s moments of long, dense instrumentals, there’s shadowy organ chords which send shivers down your spine, there’s duelling guitars which offer a captivating, uncompromising vision of darkness and then there's Anna’s haunting vocal, reaching far beyond this realm and it leaves me completely breathless.

What sprung to my mind after my first listen? The words of one Mr B Potter Esq. "Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans!"

What comes close to this? Perhaps “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”? Either way, “Come Wander With Me/Deliverance" is truly outstanding. 

Pre-order is open now via City Slang or Anna’s own label for Sweden (there’s also the promise of a signed copy and an exclusive ‘extra’ there, enough to tempt me to pay a little extra)… Now I'm off for some nightmares.

Hydras Dream - New Music "Introducing"

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Hydras Dream is a new project between Swedish composer Matti Bye and my artist of 2013 (whose releases I voted at numbers ten and one in my albums of 2013 posts) Anna Von Hausswolff, seemingly not content with last years Ceremony and accompanying live dates around the world, the collaboration will release their debut album The Little Match Girl in March via the ever wonderful Berlin label Denovali Records.

A taster has been shared in the shape of "The Joys of a New Year", a track which starts all languid beauty with dreamlike synths and Anna's emotive vocals, bathed in a sea of reverb, carrying you in a hypnotic state towards somewhere more safe and tranquil before dashing that sense of security with a searing finale of crashing noise, a perfect combination of shades, light and dark meet in perfect harmony and I'm left wishing for more. Thankfully there's not too long to wait.

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Seven - Number One

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Seven - Number One

Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22 // 21 - 18 // 17 - 14 // 13 - 10 // 9 - 6 // 5 - 2 // 1

1. Anna Von Hausswolff - Singing From The Grave

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Hmmm, yeah, so my album of the year isn't actually from 2013. Sorry about that! It is my blog and it is my rules... Singing From the Grave was released in 2010 but didn't cross my ears until I returned from End of the Road festival at the start of September this year, so by that regard it is an my favourite album of the year and that's what this list is all about...

Anna Von Hausswolff had just performed a blow-away set at the festival, a show that stunned an entire crowd into jaw-dropped silence with an intense and gripping sound and with Ceremony already in my possession (an album I put at number ten in this very same countdown) I looked at her website after returning home and saw the link for another CD that I didn't know existed, a debut album released via Kning Disk which seemingly hasn't found too many ears out of Sweden. It really must.

I can remember when I first listened to it, it wasn't in the most conventional of setting for most people but is quite usual for me, it was on the treadmill in my local gym. I was soon bewitched by the most stunning of records and since then it has been my most listened to record of the year so even after a year which has seen some great, great records from some of my all-time favourite acts putting Singing From The Grave as number one was never out of the question.

The album is not quite as dark or cinematic (though equally challenging perhaps) as Ceremony and relies primarily on Anna's powerful vocals, her piano and some strong instrumental flourishes. The result is as dramatic and bombastic as any record you're likely to hear and evokes deep emotion through a goose-bump inducing voice and rich, heart-felt songcraft.

After the delicate opener "Move On" kicks off the album with an exquisite piano waltz it's "Track of Time" which first send shivers through you. As personal and beautiful a track as I've ever heard, heading straight to the heart, it lives and breathes a wounded soul around plaintive piano chords which speak as many tales as the lyrics, you can almost touch the sadness throughout, "Track of Time" is a compelling and genuinely moving experience.

From a softening opening "Above All" rises against twinkling piano circles to an equally strong and dramatic conclusion, the title track is the darkest of all and "Lost at Sea" is as bombastic and brilliant as they come, a wizardry of piano melody and strong, urgent percussion combine to create another captivating (and somewhat terrifying) aural storm.

If you've still not felt the emotion by now you're probably made of stone but then comes along "Old Beauty/Du Kan Nu Dö" (You Can Die Now according to Google translate) to shatter any remaining feelings you may have, half sung in English and half in her native tongue the track is a devastating, fragile ballad with Anna's most intimate vocal delivery wrapped around piano chords which threaten to explode with emotion.

A truly stunning record that I'm very glad to have discovered (if some three years late). Hopefully perhaps one or two of you may now. That's the whole point of this long, long list after all...

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Four - 13-10

My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Four - 13-10

Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22 // 21 - 18 // 17 - 14 // 13 - 10 // 9 - 6 // 5 - 2 // 1

13. Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen

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Veronica Falls kick-started 2013 with their infectious second album Waiting For Something To Happen, a glorious release full of beautifully melodic boy-girl harmonies, precise rhythms and blissed-out guitars that built on the signature sound perfected on their debut with the addition of bright, breezy tunes and more lyrics about the wistful remembrance of youth rather than the darkly themed subjects of suicide hot-spots and graveyards!

"My Heart Beats" was the first track we hard from the record and it gives a fine example of their purposefully paced jangle-pop sound which has soon seen the quartet become one of the flag-bearers of this generation's indie pop brand. An abundance of vocal interplay with sweetly sung verses and infectious choruses liable to hang around in your head for days. Part of the bands magic is that they have perfected the knack of making every one of their tracks sound like something you're already familiar with, it puts you straight and ease and brings immediate joy.

Highlights are everywhere, the charming "Teenage" is a cute and unadulterated pop tune, "Buried Alive" is equally playful swooning about the chance of immediate death and "Broken Toy" rattles with urgent, compulsive beauty. Elsewhere though the album is more contemplative, my favourite of which is "Last Conversation", the gloriously melancholic closing track which is perhaps the most complete track the band have produced to date.

Ordering the album from Rough Trade is advised, not only do get the LP but you also get a bonus EP of cover versions - you can't grumble at that.



12. The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

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Following The Big Roar, my album of 2011 was always going to be a difficult task. Did The Joy Formidable achievement the almost impossible with January's Wolf's Law? The simple answer is Yes and no. The album is definitely that of a growing band, literally at times. Full of vast, ambitious soundscapes where punishingly drums combine with giant-sized guitar riffs and intense vocals.

At times it works perfectly, the joyous "Tendons" is pretty close to the formula of the debut album, a real cacophony of devastating guitar riffs, Rhydian's deep bass combine with whirlwind drums and Ritzy's beautiful, ethereal vocal, soaring and searing amongst softer tranquil moments. It's a track pretty close to perfection. The album's preceding singles work well too, "Cholla" (the title of which is clearly inspired by the bands touring and recording trips across America) gives us a real sign of The Joy Formidable's lofty ambitions, a no-nonsense beast with heavy, distorted guitars, punishing beats and ripping vocals. Exactly what some people think the band do best and "This Ladder Is Ours" is similarly rip-roaring combining Ritzy's identifiable vocals with sky-scraping guitars and frenetic drums -  it exemplifies the stratospheric arena-filling noise that the band's live show has developed.

The consequence though, at times is melody, for me, and that's a die hard TJF fan, the album is just too bombastic. Take the epic "Maw Maw Song" for example or the Americanised rock of "Bats" or "Little Blimp", it's just too excessive for me. Still, those blips are made up for by softer moments such as the devastating "Silent Treatment", a much welcome respite from the adrenaline pumping noise before and a stand-alone moment of really beauty and intimacy with lyrics that send shivers through you (especially when you realise the turmoil the band were going through whilst recording the record with Ritzy and Rhydian splitting up from a long-term relationship).

"The Turnaround" is another favourite, drenched in full string arrangements it brings out the true beauty of this exceptional band with the rest of the albums closing tracks working well too. "Forest Serenade" is Wolf's Law's attempt at "Whirring" and the title track "Wolf's Law" (on the album as a hidden track) is an incredible slow-burn piano beauty which plays to the bands exquisite loud/quiet dynamics, slowly building around heart-melting vocals with twinkling keys building in momentum to a devastating crescendo of colliding beauty and noise. Here's more like that on album three...




11. London Grammar - If You Wait

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London Grammar were seemingly talked about more because they failed to get into the Mercury Prize nomination list announced on the same day as their debut album If You Wait, a strange thing for magazines to lead with when the album should be played for all the right reasons, a debut that is the perfect exercise in restraint and highlights the extraordinary voice of Hannah Reid to devastating results.

I'll start with my favourite, the soaring, emotive ballad "Wasting All My Young Years", where glacial keys, atmospheric guitars and one of the years best vocal deliveries combine to dazzling effects. It builds with graceful yet soaring grandeur through piano led twinklings and smooth electro-beats but it is Reid's stunning voice that remains with you longest. The album has similarly spine-tingling moments throughout, the string laden title-track closes the album on perhaps the most poignant moment, the bewitching "Shyer's" spidery guitar patterns, then there's the beautiful slow-burn balled "Hey Now" or "Strong", whose subtle electronic textures maybe downbeat but they also embrace emotion and strength in immeasurable quantity.

A cover of Kavinsky's "Nightcall" is stripped to the bared of bones, carefully considered and immaculately delivered, the Drive soundtrack modern day classic soon becomes a bitter-sweet and elegant ballad that like much of the album, is a real breath of fresh air and I really have to mention the devastating "Interlude" too, as vulnerable and haunting a moment in this, the most wintry and brilliant of listens. MP judges - you were wrong.




10. Anna Von Hausswolff - Ceremony

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Gothenburg's Anna Von Hausswollf released her second, but first with a world-wide release Ceremony in June, a captivating, uncompromising vision of darkness and the morose that combines dramatic, vastly ambitious cinematic soundscapes with intense vocals and lyrical themes that come across as a study of loss and death. Don't turn away though, it's not all quite as bleak as it sounds, quite the opposite in fact, Ceremony is almost joyous at times and amongst the dark and foreboding moments, light is never far away.

After opening with a long, dense instrumental and following with "Deathbed" it is some ten minutes before we actually get to hear any vocals, a testament in itself that perhaps this is not an album for everyone. The track soon comes the closest to matching the intensity of Anna's live show (the clear winner of my live show of the year by the way, more on that another time), starting with a slow, marching crawl that could be the soundtrack to a stalking scene from a horror move before soaring instrumentation swells announce the arrival of Anna's dramatic, transfixing vocals. The next track " Mountains Crave" is the most accessible moment, a hypnotic groove of bright, bubbling organ keys and languid guitars float amongst Anna's haunting vocals to carrying you to off some otherworldly place of beauty.

The record ebbs and flows throughout, from "Red Sun's" stark, brooding power to the melancholy of "Goodbye" to the serene elegance of "Liturgy of Light", a devastatingly beautiful track which flutters around soft guitar textures and the wave after wave of cascading piano which introduces "Ocean". Though Ceremony may peak with "Funeral For My Future Children", the bleakest of titles leads into the albums most celebratory of moments where rattling percussion and looping organ create a the most expressive of gothic soundscapes against Anna's hypnotic vocals, the result is a creative and experimental album that stays with you long into the night.


End of the Road Festival 2013 - Saturday Review

I actually have a decent night sleep and Saturday soon arrives, the kids are nice enough to lie-in until almost eight o'clock and it's already pretty warm. Shorts are definitely the order of the day and we had for breakfast on the double decker bus - the queue is long but the bacon sandwich and coffee soon make up for it.

We head for the craft area again and my five year old has the time of her life first decorating a record with paint, then colouring in on a massive colouring board and then after she spends a full hour and a half making a Bobby Dazzler doll - all free of charge.

I take the little one for a walk around the woods and have another coffee sitting under a tree - there's all sorts of installations and things hidden in trees to discover (a picture below a homage to Scooby Doo perhaps) as well as peacocks roaming around freely - a perfect chilled out morning is had.

At half one we head for music, it's nice when a band are clearly enjoying themselves and that's obviously the case with Laish a Brighton quintet I'd not seen since The Great Escape in 2012.

Their sound is hard to pigeonhole, it's more than your standard folk-rock band - sparked with life, booming percussion, string flourishes, wry lyrics and the delicious backing harmonies of Emma Gatrill (who I've featured here a few times) and Martha Rose all combine with impeccable ease.

Daniel Green drives it all forward with a voice that rises in fall in accordance with the instrumentation, from soft and gentle to soaring peaks. The audience is well sized and the people next to me rush to the stage after the show to take Daniel up on his offer of a free hug.

We stop for lunch, a game of Pucket (a board of which we later buy and now finds itself sitting on my table) and a drink. After an easy hour we head to the Garden Stage in full sunshine to see Angel Olsen. I had listened to her briefly beforehand and was expecting a stunning voice and heart-breaking songs and that we were, but her hour long set was much better than that.

Absolutely sublime from start to end, as beguiling vocal and intimate performance as you could hope to witness, Angel in complete control throughout, her guitar plucking combines modern contemporary folk with a timeless singer-songwriter sound that could have been written some sixty years ago. In this weather as Angel fights with a full sun in her view her sad, forlorn songs could easily find new meaning, either way it's hypnotic and devastatingly beautiful. The silence from the crowd confirms they're hooked to her every word too.

We take another mini break before the busiest two hours of the day. It's unfortunate that four acts I really wanted to see (all four featured in my pre-festival picks) clash heavily. I decide to catch some, if not all, of all four so we make our way to the Tipi Tent for Golden Fable.

The sound and environment is perfect for them and they sparkle with precise beats puncturing their soaring melodies, it's both expansive and enchanting with Rebecca's beautiful vocals casting a potent spell over the crowd. Five songs in when I decide it's time to head to the main stage I'm completely torn. Thankfully the decision is made easier as I'm seeing the band again in just a couple of weeks and so I head to the main stage for Warpaint, one of the weekends main attractions.

Things aren't quite right from the outset, the start is slightly delayed with technical hiccups, it unfortunately sets the tone for the gig. Muddy sound and perhaps the bands slight rustiness mean the guitar textures and harmonies don't really click until three of four songs in with "Undertow". There are four new tracks in the set, a couple introduce an electronic sound, one very 80's and I'll definitely need to hear them again. I love this band and have seen them a dozen times already but I struggle to really connect with this performance. As Emily takes up a solo finale of "Baby" I return to the Tipi Tent and discover the rather brilliant Freedom lager, it goes down far too easily. (One niggling complaint I'll mention now was the queues for the real ale tent - I think the demand was underestimated).

I'm here for Anna Von Hausswolff and I regret missing the first fifteen minutes of her set, it soon become the highlight of the weekend (along side David Byrne & St Vincent), as compelling and breathtaking as anything I've seen in a long while.

The quintet of musicians form a semi circle around the stage with Anna on one side hunched aside her organ. "Mountains Crave" utterly transfixes before the rest of the set manages to somehow raise the intensity even more so. Striking vocals and shimmering, searing instrumentation from her wonderful band (especially the drummer) make for a vast and dramatic sound that makes the audience react like very few I've witnessed during a festival set - completely hypnotised by its spellbinding brilliance there's no sound at all until the conclusion when Anna receives a huge applause, I don't think anyone was ready for it to end.

I head to the Garden Stage next for Daughter, I only manage to catch the last five songs and it's incredible to see quite how much Daughter have grown. The announcement of "Youth" is met with teenage squeals normally reserved for the likes of Take That, Elena' smiles at it too. What I hear is as emotional and haunting as I've become accustomed to. There's a massive crowd too, everyone grabs onto the warm and beauty the band deliver with such effortless ease.

Afterwards I return to the Tipi for more beer and check out Sigur Ros. I decide it's not really for me, take a little wander and then decide I'm old and as I know the kids will me waking me up early I head back to the tent - an early conclusion perhaps but another overwhelmingly satisfactory day ends.