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Anna von Hausswolff – Dead Magic

City Slang

Anna von Hausswolff - Dead MagicThat organ vibe is immense, reverbs the Copenhagen church it was recorded in a solemn flood, crested by a bewitchment of voice. A vocal that brings to mind His Name Is Alive‘s Karin Oliver, then shifts in with Kendra Smith inflexions, gymnastically leaping to elsewhere, soaring on singed syllable.

The first three tracks of Dead Magic are epic, ponderous, potent. The first is a triptych in its own right — a twelve-minute wash of petering transits baked in this malevolent melody. “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall” washes over you in rousing flashes of light and dark, a concentrate that starts gorgeously strung-out, shoehorned in wonder. That vocal a rich corona that eats away at the melodic weave, a Lisa Gerrard-like tipple set tonally adrift — reborn in sparrowing forks of vocal that dervish some divinely nailed piano.

It’s a moody precedent, grievously pinned, a dramatic that “The Mysterious Vanishing Of Electra”‘s malignly claws in strum and cushioned beats. The stab of electric igniting this numb, relentless march, that backs her leaping octaves and Meredith Monk whimsy. Synth lines bleeding out, milking a reluctant melody carpeted in scattered percussives as that owly vocal banquets on stepped frets.

“Ugly And Vengeful” follows, a sixteen-minute composition that is strangely neither, the expectation of some Diamanda Galas-like throat violence (Anna certainly has the capability, after all) swapped for this odd, slightly scary, warmth. The sparkle of dust fire-flying a thin strip of light to a lullaby lost. A doom-laden atmosphere filled with shimmery curtains and delectable dirge. It’s sort of painted by numbers, but that surging redemptive imbues an interesting contrast to the gothic tailoring.

“I’m restless… I’m older … I’m heavy like a stoooone…”, she sings, like some hymnal keepsake ritually bound in cotton as the salt spills over those powerful toms and biting sythns, a pagan-picked uplight pinched in slicing dynamics, Anna’s vocal cracking open some rosy Sunn O)))-like ampage. The tempo arabesqueing a maniac (prog-like) chordage as the percussives fervour a Creatures-like pounding that’s more than matched by Anna’s Ribeiro(ing) larynx. This is killer, the way the tension is cut back, mulled about, then left to pour forth again twofold. “Like a stoooooooooone!”, she cries as butterflies burn like kerosened kandy and this lovely razored rock operatically splatters, dying to a single sustain.

“Ugly And Vengeful” is an absolute beast of a track that unfortunately casts a weighty shadow over the remaining goods, dwarfs their subtler airs, the organed instrumentals of “Marble Eye”; and “Källans Återuppståndelse”‘s spidery ambience that has Anna’s delicate delivery superbly haunted by gnarly croon guitar. Dead Magic is anything but.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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