Anna Von Hausswolff’s discography is an intense collection by anyone’s standards, but on her fourth album, Dead Magic, she ramps up the intensity even more. 5 tracks over 47 minutes gives her time to suck you into her world and feel every second, every note and every word. Hausswolf uses the organ from Marmorkirken church in Copenhagen which only adds to the mystery and intensity. Swans, Nils Frahm, Sunn 0))), Gyorgi Ligeti and Yma Sumac have influenced the making of the album so from that you can guess that there will power and darkness tempered with subtlety and grace.
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On this day of fervent and unforgiving snow, it’s nice to see an Anna von Hausswolff record hiding under my behemoth of things to review. Hausswolff nailed her low-key gothica into the walls of a grand cathedral on ‘The Miraculous’, centering her organ around eerie instrumentation for an unrelenting tour de force. She comes back with a less devastating but quite majestic record in ‘Dead Magic’; big on bravado, it sounds like she needs half the narrative to be twice as emphatic.
It’s on this occasion that I can only really remark on the sheer beauty of the thing. The first song, scoped out to a languishing seven minutes, is dotted with string flourishes, droning melodies, lovely vocals and the kind of wide-eyed hope a musician of Hausswolff’s means rarely goes after. It’s perfect. The record does not shirk its gothic responsibilities, of course, and Hausswolff’s music retains its alchemic frenzies; “The mysterious vanishing of Electra” has a sonorous doom drumbeat and shrieking synths that give it a marching, folkloric feel; cackling and chanting, Hausswolff becomes not only narrator but antagonist, drawing the listeners into what eventually becomes a cyclone of doomy riffs and vampiric keys.
It’s compact, in feel, but Hausswolff’s latest record feels like the best showing of what she can do. The organ playing is possessive and claustrophobic, as in the endless oscillations “The Marble Eye”, but it can also make for spacious, grandiose soundscapes. What’s never lost in her music is its horror and its intensity: through means more traditional, she makes a record with twice the might of noise rock’s best.
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