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Anna Von Hauswolff's new album Dead Magic, come out March 2nd, 2018 on City Slang. When asked for her commentary on the content of the album, Von Hauswolff provided this quote from Swedish author Walter Ljungquist. "Take a human death, a thin, pathetic outer contour that encloses a great, unknown silence. It is in that silence, in an unknown, just imagine the center as the legend grows. Ah yes! Therefore, there are no legends in our time. Our time is a time without silence and secrets, and without it there are no living legends."
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My first encounter with Anna was through her 2012 album “Ceremony”. This album is a pretty good ambient pop and ethereal wave album, on which Anna shows her strength as a competent songwriter with a certain stylistic flair that is fairly unique in the musical field, featuring long organ compositions (played by Anna herself) as well as her Kate Bush-esque vocal delivery that is fragile and hopeful enough to engage the listener.
Now we come to Dead Magic, 2018, the second Hausswolff album I’ve heard. I’ve got to say, this album really blew me away. It’s sinister, dark, ethereal, and musically it’s excellent stuff. The first track (The Truth, the Glow, the Fall) opens with Anna’s singing over fairly sparse instrumentation. A slow organ chord plays over Anna’s delicate, ethereal vocals, eventually joined eventually by a pendulous guitar chord, played continuously. A third of the way through the track, the tempo changes, featuring higher, more powerful vocals from Anna, singing about being a “valley free from the snow” and “will we fall, where will we fall?” The vocals really soar at this point, become more angelic and heraldic. This track is a slow burn at about 12 minutes, but one entirely worth the effort.
The second track, and probably my favorite on “Dead Magic”, is “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra”, a six minute, absolutely firey, fast paced Swans-esque drone anthem that marks a very different and drastic change from the previous song’s slow crawl. It opens up with this incredible drum and guitar combo, with sinister synths layered in the background, setting a punishing and gratifying rythm. Anna’s vocals soon kick in, singing “my feet are not enough to save me”. Maybe Anna is running from something? We gain more insight with her further refrain, “my love is not enough to save me”, as her vocal delivery twists into something demented and truly malevolent. I can’t say enough about this track, it’s just absolutely fantastic. Demanding, but worth every second.
The third track, “Ugly and Vengeful”, is another slow burner, but no less for it. It reminds me of the post-rock anthems of early Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a gargantuan sixteen minutes in length and deep enough to fall into and never crawl back out. It is probably the most ambitious of the five tracks, and is quite good, though the vocal delivery doesn’t grab me as tight as “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra”.
The next two tracks are definitely slower than those previous. Both Marble Eye and Källans are pleasant to listen to for sure, but offer less musical variety and creativity. I feel like the previous three tracks set the bar almost too high, as these last two fail to live up to it.
All in all, I’m very happy I purchased this album. It’s a solid 4.25 for me overall.