Anna von Hausswolff, Ceremony

Andy Beta

By Andy Beta

on 07.12.13 in Reviews

Avant-garde aficionados might recognize Anna von Hausswolff’s surname. Her father is the distinguished Swedish sound artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, and for just over the opening 10 minutes of von Hausswolff’s second album (and first to see release stateside), one might mistakenly think she’s followed in her father’s footsteps, as “Epitaph of Theodor” and most of “Deathbed” are filled with her mesmeric pipe organ explorations, flares of electric guitar and martial drumming. And then Anna’s own pipes arrive at “Deathbed”‘s midway point, revealing an astonishing voice that immediately arrests upon its entrance: gentle, fraught and full of gravitas.

A new artist with an old soul moves between art song and dramatic pop

On “Mountains Crave,” she evokes Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, while at other moments she’s as elegant as Elizabeth Fraser and Lisa Gerrard, as unsettling as Nico. Across Ceremony‘s 13 tracks, von Hausswolff moves between art song and dramatic pop, sometimes dreamy, other times as visceral as Sunn O))). No matter the backing, her stunning voice is shadowed by her assured pipe organ accompaniment, which was recorded at Gothenburg’s vast Annedalkyrkan — its centuries-old valves glimpsed on the album cover. Throughout, von Hausswolff strikes a balance between the abstract and the personal: “No Body” pulses with growling feedback and dark drones, while the folk-tinged “Liturgy of Light” is one of the year’s most elegiac songs, revealing a new artist with an old soul.