Drunken Werewolf - Anna von Hausswolff, Ceremony -
A flawlessly produced collection of tracks that offer honest variety both to each other and everything else on the market, Anna Von Hausswolff’s sophomore album is as polished as the organ pipes that entrench its every moment.
Green White and Gold Sounds - Ceremony -
Beauty can be wrought from darkness – and then there are albums like this, which take it to a whole new level.
The Quietus interviews Anna von Hausswolff -
The Swedish singer-songwriter tells John Freeman how her album Ceremony was inspired by a love of drone, a fascination with death and the vocal cords of Diamanda Galás.
Music OMH - Ceremony Review -
With Sigur Rós also releasing their latest album this week, Anna Von Hausswolff’s stark but outstanding second offering Ceremony is a timely reminder that the celebrated Icelanders don’t have it all their own way when it comes to widescreen Nordic atmospherics.
Despite possessing a name that evokes images of yodelling nuns running gaily through Alpine valleys, Von Hausswolff actually hails from Gothenburg in Sweden and her music is anything but joyful. Following some strong reviews in her homeland for her arresting debut Singing From The Grave and supporting slots with M Ward and Tindersticks among others, Ceremony is being given a well deserved global release.
Von Hausswolff’s piercing, dramatic voice has been predictably but understandably compared to Kate Bush, but we don’t even hear it for the first time on Ceremony until nearly five minutes into the second track, the shatteringly powerful Deathbed (is anyone spotting a titular theme emerging here…). Before that, we get waves of ominous keyboards, crashing heavy metal guitars and most memorably of all, a vast-sounding church organ, recorded by the Swede in her home city’s Annedalskyrkan cathedral. It’s all relentlessly gloomy but mightily impressive, like the soundtrack to a particularly bleak but compelling horror movie.
It’s only on third song Mountains Crave that Von Hausswolff reveals herself fully, on what’s a comparatively light, poppy song of just over three minutes that would fit very nicely on Bat For Lashes’ The Haunted Man album. It’s then back to the portentous, organ-led dynamics for the next two tracks, Goodbye and Red Sun, but one of Ceremony’s greatest strengths is that although the overall tone is dark and foreboding, there are different musical textures and shades applied subtly throughout the record.
For example, Epitaph Of Daniel (a real highlight) sees the organ dynamics toned down a notch to allow some evocative pedal steel guitar to twang elegantly above it. In contrast, No Body is oppressive almost to the point of being terrifying with its distorted slabs of mechanical noise and ambient echoes, while Liturgy Of Light is a prettily lilting folk song, but one that sounds like it’s being played in a subterranean cave. Harmonica begins with a vocal that could be a warped, long lost country and western tune, before fading out with a Lord Of The Rings-like epic melody. Ocean’s gentle cascades of piano gradually gather momentum until they’re joined by Von Hausswolff at her Bush-like best, backed by a gospel choir. This is an artist who is always ambitious and often staggeringly bold.
The high standard is maintained right until the end of Ceremony, with Von Hausswolff’s soaring, operatic vocal on Sova and the driving Funeral For My Future Children, which, considering it’s less than cheerful title, is a strangely exultant, almost triumphant closer.
With prevalent lyrical themes of death and loss, Ceremony is not music for those seeking sunny summer escapism. Yet when compared to UK gothic revivalists such as Esben And The Witch, it’s an album of striking confidence, immense compositional flair and colossal, richly cinematic arrangements. If your idea of a good time is an hour spent in the company of a dominant woman who will slowly overpower you with her irresistibly icy majesty, then Anna Von Hausswolff could well be the girl you’re looking for.
The Sunday Times UK, Amazing!
Inforty, Anna von Hausswolff - Ceremony -
Macabre, cinematic, and encompassing, Ceremony is an impressive record that defies comparison. Taking inspiration as much from classical music and film scores as epic post-rock soundscapes, von Hausswolff weaves her voluptuous, operatic voice in and out of the organ chords, singing directly into your soul. At times it rings out with an almost mediaeval wantonness, at others seems almost sacrosanct. Try the two tracks ‘No Body’ and ‘Liturgy of Light’ for an exercise in juxtaposing gothic spookiness with cautious optimism.
Kyeo.tv Ceremony Review -
Von Hausswolff is the daughter of Swedish artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, the chap who allegedly used the ashes of Holocaust survivors in a painting. Last year she had her photo taken in a Burzum t-shirt (you may remember their singer, Varg Vikernes, jailed for murder and church burning).
She’s plainly bonkers, and it’s hardly surprising that the world of Anna v H is dark and rather pagan, full of atmospheric shrieks, Martin Hannett-style production and doomy titles such as Funeral For My Future Children, Deathbed and Epitath Of Daniel. But… but… this is also a rather disarming album, full of echo and wonder.
A bit like Elizabeth Fraser fronting Closer-era Joy Division, there is much to be admired in the shimmering aura and depth of sound, and on Harmonica, AvH pastiching what sounds rather like Abba’s Fernando.
By Craig Wilson
TYCI Interview with Anna von Hausswolff -
FOR ANYONE WHO DOESN’T KNOW ABOUT YOU YET, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?
My sound is the the sound of the four horsemen of the apocalypse as they breach the black clouds of thunder, as they crack open the earth and reign down their terror of death and rule justice on humanity.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Several things. I’m working on a film that I’m making together with my sister. A two minute art film. I just got a request to do the film score for another interesting film so I’m doing some research on that right now. And I’m working on a 30 minute instrumental piece for the church organ that I will perform in the Lincoln Cathedral in October – very excited about that.
Rocksucker - Ceremony Review -
Anna von Hausswolff, an “organ-wielding enchantress” from Gothenburg, has opened for such modern day greats as Efterklang and Tindersticks; indeed, Rasmus Stolberg of the former group professed to being “obsessed” with her second album Ceremony when we spoke with him last October, describing her as sounding like “Kate Bush singing at the gates of Hell”. He’s got a point.
Von Hausswolff’s innate, ornate musicality is evidenced from the off in “Epitaph of Theodor”, which goes from funereal to sheer splendour over the course of its five-or-so minutes. “Deathbed” then comes stomping out of its own ominous wilderness, von Hausswolff finally letting her soaring voice loose almost five minutes into its nine. One skyscraping instrumental coda later and you’d be hard pressed to name a more epic-sounding track this year.
“Goodbye” is a landscape of sudden rapture, rising like the sun with its astonishing use of dynamics, while “Liturgy of Light” evokes the slow-yet-intensely-burning majesty of Spirt of Eden-era Talk Talk. Ceremony also comes bearing some instantly arresting vocal set pieces: there’s the cascading downwards inflection on “I’ll take it baaaaaack!” within “Ocean”, an impressively operatic turn on “Sova” (distinguished also by its sticky Flaming Lips guitar, clip cloppy percussion and managing to integrate a daft keyboard sound into its melodrama), and is she really singing “My milk is grey and bitter” on the brilliantly morbidly titled “Funeral for My Future Children”? There’s a chance we misheard that one.
Whereas “Goodbye” merely sounds like the sun rising, the closing track of Ceremony both sounds like one and is titled “Sun Rise”. Welcome back to modernity, church organ, and credit to Rasmus Stolberg of Efterklang for his fine taste: whatever ‘it’ is, Anna von Hausswolff has most definitely got it.