ALBUM: Anna von Hausswolff – ‘Dead Magic’

In case its cover wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Anna von Hausswolff commences her fourth album with distant footsteps, melancholy synths and an organ sound straight out of a horror movie. It’s a confirmation that Dead Magic will live up to both halves of its title’s promise, and appropriate for the opening section of a twelve-minute epic, entitled ‘The Truth, The Glow, The Fall’.   

The organ is almost certainly the one found in Copenhagen’s Marmokirken – the Marble Church, in which the album was recorded. Its setting can’t have hurt Dead Magic‘s flights of gothic fantasy, created in part by producer Randall Dunn, whose collaborations have previously included Earth, Sunn O)))) and Boris. His production adds an extra layer of atmosphere, carrying Von Hausswolff’s sound away from the folk-metal/post-rock tendency of previous album The Miraculous and into a new, but no less dark, chamber-pop landscape. If the organ and its counter-pointed shimmer of violin is ‘The Truth..’ of the opening track, then the twinkles of synths sitting on top of the arpeggio in the track’s middle section is its ‘…Glow’. Finally, Von Hausswolff’s voice is left echoing over the sound of alarming, descending synths and this is our ‘Fall’ into her world, and into Dead Magic.

The following track, ‘The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra’ is a ballad in the tradition of Cave and Harvey – its stompy drum and folksy guitar particularly reminiscent of the likes of ‘C’mon Billy’, albeit with a Siouxsie Sioux vocal. Its ending flips the script though, its final two minutes giving us Kate Bush-esque top-notes over an increasingly doom-laden, orchestral rock backing. It’s still theatrical, but on another stage entirely.

 Third track ‘Ugly and Vengeful’ is a none-more-bleak slow build, Fever Ray-ish oddity, before von Hausswolff’s vocals kick in fully after six minutes, leading to a operatic crescendo with Anna as its phantom. The track, the central sixteen minute epic of Dead Magic, closes with a final third that is part dark Goat psych, part sinister carnival.

‘The Marble Eye’ is a relatively pacey five minute organ concerto, still perfectly in keeping with the album’s sombre feel. Closer ‘Källans Återuppståndelse’ opens like an instrumental, before, admidst the electrical storm, von Hausswolff’s voice and the analogue sound of violins break through. It’s a reminder that, even in the age of the internet, something exists beyond the digital realm, unknowable, and magical.  

As part of the promotion of the album, Anna von Hausswolff chose a poem by Walter Ljungquist, in which the Swedish writer observes “[T]here are no legends in our time”. By creating a spectral, dark wonderland of the sublime, both within and without, von Hausswolff has perhaps shown that the magic and the legends aren’t completely gone.

Dead Magic, the upcoming album from Anna von Hausswolff, is out 2nd March via City Slang. You can catch her live in London at The Dome on 12th March.

John McGovern

Photo Credit: Gianluca Grasselli


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