Anna von Hausswolff, "The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra" (City Slang)
Swedish vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Anna von Hausswolff is the daughter of a revered avant-garde drone composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff, and it seems as if she's well on her way to surpassing her pops for name recognition... and record sales. (He's released on Table of the Elements, Die Stadt, and Ash International, so maybe that's not too amazing of a feat, but still...) Her new album, Dead Magic, is a riveting mix of liturgical drones, gorgeous, goth-leaning balladry, and Sturm und Drang art-rock, all capped by von Hausswolff's Kate Bush-esque command of drama, passion, and gleaming vocal tone. The album's shortest song is five minutes and the longest over 16, but von Hausswolff earns her lengthy running times with a keen ear for rich textures and a deft way with dynamics.
"The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra" can't help reminding me of late-era Swans, with its stern-as-hell, tom-heavy rhythm and repetitive power chording that suggests a fraught march to a meeting with the hangman. Von Hausswolff's voice gets incantatory and ecstatically operatic as she recounts a saga of existential despair. The piece is shot through with mythical melodrama—"His search is not enough/To find me.../My love is not enough/To save me"—but von Hausswolff overcomes any detrimental effects with a gravitas and intensity that are so grandiose, you feel like a persnickety joykill for complaining. Give in to the blustery majesty of it all.
Anna Von Hausswolff performs Wednesday October 10 at Chop Suey with John Haughm.
Sorry to report that von Hausswolff has cancelled her US tour.