The Miraculous Is Out Now Via City Slang.
Anna von Hausswolff’s third full length album, released November 13th, is a work of monstrous beauty. The Miraculous embodies an enormous sound bathed in soothing simplicity. Much of the material on the album was recorded with use of the Acusticum Pipe Organ in Piteå, Northern Sweden, which houses 9,000 pipes, making it one of the largest in the country. Anna von Hausswolff’s uniquely expressive voice perfectly compliments the atmospheric textures created by the dark droney sounds of this colossal instrument.
Hausswolff is a trained vocalist and composer, evident in her dynamic instrumentation and vocal fluctuation throughout this album. The Miraculous is heavier and darker than her previous releases. In this new album, she draws from her love of black metal and experimental music more so than she has in the past.
Hailing from Sweden, and steeped in traditional folk music, Hausswolff is attempting to create soundscapes that are reflective of the landscapes of her home country. She explains this by saying: “Evocation is a poetic journey into a memory. It’s about trying to understand a place better by remembering its history. It’s about the terror, fascination and beauty that comes with the recollection of the past.”
When Anna von Hausswolff was a child her parents used to bring her to a region of Sweden that has a complicated history. She remembers being told stories of this place, the location of which she will not reveal. It was the site of an unsuccessful uprising against the country’s king, during which thousands of peasants were slaughtered. It’s also a place, according to Hausswolff, of unparallelled beauty. The album attempts to capture this dichotomy of majesty and terror. The tension can be felt through the masterfully orchestrated mix of haunting doomscapes and dreamy soundscapes. Hausswolff returns to this place often. She calls it The Miraculous.
This connection to place is an important piece of Hausswolff’s work on many levels. When she plays live, the locations are picked with great intention. Last year, after the release of her sophomore album Ceremony, she played a show at the Lincoln Cathedral, in England’s East Midlands, and at Syndey’s Town Hall. The setting and atmosphere, as well as the built in instrumentation and acoustics, set the stage for the dynamic performances Hausswolff is known for.
My usually-well-tuned ear was having a bit of trouble identifying a few of the unique sounding instruments in The Miraculous. As it turns out, the massive organ used for much of the recording also contains a built-in glockenspiel, vibraphone, celeste and percussive elements that Hausswolff oriented into her songs. The album is in many ways experimental, sounding even improvisational at times. It relies heavily on dreamy soundscapes that carry a full-bodied ambiance. Yet moments arrive unexpectedly, such as on the third track, Come Wonder With Me/Deliverance, where the listener’s dream state is interrupted by sludgey metal riffs and elements of noise that follow through to an explosive end.
The Miraculous is a work of art. It is a well-constructed album that contains a depth of both sound and meaning. Anna von Hausswolff will be touring this month. She is known for her captivating live performances. I imagine that watching her belt out these haunting anthems would be quite an amazing and memorable experience. Be sure to catch a show if you can!
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