Some artists cut too close to the bone. Whether it be their music or at the specific time of listening, sometimes it can just prove too much.
I’m sure everyone has experienced this and has an artist where they can draw such comparisons to. In my case it’s Anna von Hausswolff.
Dead Magic, von Hausswolff’s excellent 2018 LP, was released at a time when I was going through a personal bereavement. Every morning, Dead Magic would be the first point of contact. The emotional burden when met with von Hausswolff’s music burning ever so fiercer with each listen.
It was like a drug, and despite knowing what emotional impact Dead Magic had, rather than avoid, it was like a gateway to peddle pain and cure the immeasurable despair. Perhaps it was a subconscious thing, the title itself telling a story of some sort.
The rich blankets of sound during Källans återuppståndelse stirring up crippling emotions that felt like a poisoned knife through the heart. Besieged and exhausted by loss and overwhelming grief, so much so that I hadn’t listened to von Hausswolff’s music since.
To quote Alasdair Gray from his brilliant 1981 novel, Lanark, “Words are like the language of lies and evasions. Music cannot lie. Music talks to the heart.”
It’s true. Music also takes no prisons, which is why von Hausswolff’s latest release, Live at Montreux Jazz Festival was met with extreme caution.
Von Hausswolff’s performance on Sunn O)))’s Metta, Benevolence… was simply astonishing, giving new life to the drone overlord’s weighty compositions. On Live at Montreux Jazz Festival, she does exactly the same thing to her own songs.
Where Randall Dunn’s sonic aptitude from behind the studio glass adds the vigorous shades to Von Hausswolff’s stirring neo-classical rumblings, Live at Montreux Jazz Festival sees the Swedish artist scratch over the canvass with new blackened tones, fully immersed in the realms of doom.
Alongside von Hausswolff is her full band (von Hausswolff’s sister, Maria on vocals, Filip Leyman – synth, percussion; Ulrik Ording – drums; Karl Vento – electric guitar; Joel Fabiansson – electric guitar; David Sabel – bass). Together they spew rage and bile up from the abyss.
Like a voice emerging like a piercing cold wind through the forest, The Truth The Grow The Fall and The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra sees von Hausswolff’s vocals soar above whirring synths and dark, wiry arpeggios.
Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, Ugly and Vengeful is the pure embodiment of its title. Arguably one of von Hausswolff’s finest moments, here it’s as brooding, operatic and epic as on tape. Wreathed in smoke, medieval synths and instrumental scrapes, it lurks like a semi-tamed beast alongside von Hausswolff, who delivers her icy sermon with aplomb. It’s like a black acid nightmare.
Cradled in doom and majesty, while Come Wander With Me is also a lengthy jaunt and worthy curtain call on this release, it’s Källans återuppståndelse that steals the spotlight.
Hurled into hell and meeting Lucifer in a bid to burying the past, Källans återuppståndelse is gothic drama at its finest. Von Hauswolff delivers her finest song with unbridled force.
Live albums aren’t a necessary go-to point but the inventiveness and new magic captured here means that, when done right, there’s a unique energy and wild beauty to be found. Live at Montreux Jazz Festival provides unlikely results, as von Hausswolff manoeuvres through the sound waves, presenting the past with an enthralling new sense of vitality.
Live at Montreux Jazz Festival is out now via Southern Lord. Purchase from Bandcamp.