Live Reviews

Anna von Hausswolff @ Tufnell Park Dome, London

12 March 2018


Anna von Hausswolff

Anna von Hausswolff (Photo: Gianluca Grasselli)

Is this how the world ends: With a Swedish woman howling like a banshee, while an organ is made to sound like a billion creaking doors ominously edging open, and an unspecific yet terrifying shadow being cast through the burgeoning gap, while guitars are strummed and bowed to within an inch of their lives all around?

Well, no. But for an moment, it could have come to pass. There are many and varied artists who could claim to make, or indeed may be forcibly anointed, ‘the sound of the apocalypse’. (Which does make you wonder what expectations people have of an apocalypse, and why so many believe it will have musical accompaniment.) But from the perspective of this being a world tearing event, one which leaves everything indelibly marked, it does make some kind of perfect sense for Anna von Hausswolff.

There is something monumental about this show, something epic and other-worldly. The opening The Truth, The Glow, The Fall, the stage cast in steam and blue light, rises from the gloom, inching forward in droning glory as her voice skips lightly across the top. It’s a strange intersection of delicately folky and bludgeoningly heavy.

Ugly and Vengeful is similarly intense. At times von Hausswolff, blazingly lit behind her keyboards, is almost a cappella: “Forgiven,” she cries into the dark. “Forsaken,” she pleads at her audience, before the beautiful noise returns, pulled into place at the pace of druids raising Stonehenge. It’s Sigur Rós, if they were a little less elfin and rather more ogreish. It’s Benedictine monks doing Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It’s Joanna Newsom, if she was partaking in a black mass with Sunn O))).

Also in evidence is a modicum of influence from her sometime tourmates Swans in the elemental power of repetition and the hypnotic wonder of a drone. But it’s all done in a way which feels unique to von Hausswolff: a differing perspective on the core ingredients.

So something like the The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra may have the clanging angular teeth of some of Swans captain Michael Gira’s most recent work, but it’s also somehow more subtle and nuanced. Somewhere deep in its bowels there’s the remains of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack: The Good, The Bad and The Decaying.

Even before an encore during which she glides through the centre of the audience as though a hot knife through butter, singing all the while, it’s a wonderful show from a wonderful performer. Is this how the world ends? No. But in a similarly metaphysical way, this maybe is how a star is born.

Anna von Hausswolff played: The Truth, The Glow, The Fall, The Marble Eye, Pomperipossa, Ugly and Vengeful, Källans Ateruppståndelse, The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra, Come Wander With Me / Deliverance, The Mirror

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