Anna Von Hausswolff, Ceremony, City Slang
About four minutes into ‘Deathbed’, the second track on Ceremony, we finally hear Anna Von Hausswolff. But the anticipation is enjoyably cushioned by organs that sound as if they’re played from within the guts of Bowie’s ‘Warszawa’. We are rewarded by the desperate bombast of a plaintive, “Will you take back/ take back/ what you said?”. It’s all quite delightfully gothika. Von Hausswolff is keen to demonstrate her palette, however, and so the next track, ‘Mountains Crave’ is a skipping, hopping song of praise and joy in nature.
For her second record, following the fragile, beautiful Singing From the Grave, Von Hausswolff has called on collaborators to help her mature her sound. Nick Cave and PJ Harvey are in that number, adding their tones to her cinematic release.
Ceremony feels as though it has a narrative, even when there is no clearly signposted one. It’s not a concept album unless the concept is abstract sky-scape melancholia. The consistent themes throughout the album are loss and organ music. Specifically the organ of the album cover. It’s an imposing organ from Gothenburg’s Anndalkyrkan church. The album stands as an authentic emotional examination of human mortality. It is a modern take on Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’.
The album continues with this daubing of light and dark shades, but despite this textural liberality ‘Ceremony’ manages to maintain a sense of definition, of resolve. It feels thought out, curated. There are no false moves and each step that Hausswolff takes, she makes sure to take us with her. It’s a confident record. Maybe that impression comes from the fatness of the church organ and the tartness of the handclaps. That makes her sound twee. She’s not twee. The menace of songs like ‘Red Sun’ and ‘Funeral for my Future Children’ does away with that assumption.
If it were sunny, this wouldn’t be an album you’d want to listen to over and over. But it isn’t sunny. And you will.
Anna Von Hausswolff plays at the Green Man festival this year. Will you be there?