Scandinavia—a mystical land where beautiful people have an extremely high standard of living, obtain quality education, and create beautiful music. The region that seems to surpass the rest of the world in everything that counts.
Why is this true? We’ll probably never know, but every artist that comes out of Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) seems to do pop, hip-hop, folk, and indie better than any others. Anna von Hausswolff is warrant to this claim. She combines the glowing effervescence of pop, the earthy grit of folk, the driving rhythms of hip-hop, and the serene melancholy of (some) indie on her latest album, Ceremony.
Her signature is a mega-instrument: the pipe organ. Ceremony showcases her passion and love with each track beginning on a powerful chord from the ancient noisemaker. “Epitaph for Theodor” is an instrumental prelude demonstrating von Hausswolff’s versatility as a composer and performer. “Deathbed” gives a peek of the singer’s natural pipes after another melody is drawn from the behemoth organ.
The track quickly realizes that particular brand of melancholy and gloom the Swedish have mastered, but these two introductory songs stand miles ahead of the rest of the album. There’s something about gut-shaking pedal tone from the pipe organ that awakens deep thoughts and feelings.
On “Mountain Craves,” the powerful and emotive voice of the artist fantastically punctures through the musical haze of wonder and thoughtfulness. The presence of her folk influences dramatically add, to over-awing effect, to the simple lines of the song.
Ceremony is packed with story-telling songs. Rather than following the common verse-chorus formula, most of the tracks simply go on. Lines in songs like “Goodbye” might appear repetitive coming from most other artists, but Anna’s spectacularly unique voice grabs hold of the listener’s senses and refuses to let them go until the story has come to its end.
If forced to choose one word to describe Ceremony, the pick would have to be a resounding “EPIC.” Though it’s not what the song is about, “Red Sun” conjures images of Viking wars and conquest, mostly due to the incredible effect of the organ. It cannot be overstated how essential this instrument is to the success of Anna von Hausswolff and her work. Songs like “Red Sun” would be featured on a soundtrack to the most epic moments in human history.
“Epitaph for Daniel” brings back the central motif of death that started the album off. This song is again primarily instrumental, and again, it’s mystifying that such sparse composition could sound so lush.
Ceremony is about those things which we hold sacred and beautiful, and how we explain and honor those things through austere and reverent traditions. “Liturgy of Light” delves into this cultural dossier of the human race, fueled by the fiery emotion of Anna von Hausswolff.
Up to this point, the work has been relatively tranquil, albeit powerful, but “Sova” (Swedish for “sleeping”) frantically races with primal drum beats and that ancient cry of the organ. “Sova” is repeated numerous times, intensifying the contentious and wild red hues created by the sound artist.
The headlining track “Funeral For My Future Children” delivers the overall thematic and musical qualities with a series of deliberate, powerful chords. The effect is overpowering when Anna glides in with her brilliant vibrato. No wonder she selected this track as the title of her fall tour.
Ceremony ends on a beautiful ballad called “Sun Rise.” The raw and visceral quality of von Hausswolff’s voice and the imposing tone of the steel guitar, coupled with the pipe organ, capture the serene mood of a new day dawning, probably better than anyone else has done it.
Ceremony is an extremely unique and domineering piece of work. Anna von Hausswolff finally sets herself up as a rising talent to be reckoned with, and this Swedish starlet deserves a round of applause for finding inspiration and making it her own with her second release, when many artists struggle to do just that in a career’s worth of work.
Anna von Hausswolff – Ceremony tracklist:
- “Epitaph for Theodor”
- “Mountain Craves”
- “Red Sun”
- “Epitaph for Daniel”
- “No Body”
- “Liturgy Of Light”
- “Funeral For My Future Children”
- “Sun Rise”