Bless the times that we live in! Sometimes I feel that there’s a sentiment of boundless musical expression in the air right now, so that it becomes common for artists to cross every possible line that one could think of. For some reason, and in defiance of those who’ll never get tired of praising the downfall of popculture, these are really openminded times. Brave statement, I guess, but one that is strongly underlined by Ceremony, the second longplayer of young Swedish singer ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF. A name that alone promises music of great gestures, deep precipices and distinct sublimity. Now based in Copenhagen, this young lady gathered lots of premature praise with her first release Singing From The Grave – an album which she herself found to be quite intuitive and that she felt needed to be contrasted a little with her second attempt. Well, she achieved that for sure.
Ceremony is dominated by the sound of huge church organs on the one, and abysmal drone-layers on the other hand – in between, VON HAUSSWOLFF raises her crystalclear voice, singing of nothing less than the most existential things of human life: death and birth, god and devil, dread and hope. Only 26 years old, she delivers those topics surprisingly upright and refuses to give in to her melancholy. Thanks to the sacral wideness of her music, every bleak and menacing wall of sound still offers a lot of place for neat and soothing melodies that keep this music from getting to stressful. Which is why Ceremony is an album with a clear artistic vision, rather than just somekind of desperate self purpose.
It takes us ten minutes though, until we finally get to hear the siren behind this deadly temptation. Von Hausswolff needs a lot of instrumental passages to slowly unfold her big soundscapes; an approach that clearly amplifies the impact of her voice, when it comes in. Therefore, Epitaph Of Theodor and the first minutes of Deathbed keep the listener in suspense, just to hug him afterwards with this sweet little hymn called Mountains Crave. The simple but effective percussion that is contained in this most forward single is recaptured now and then by some reduced beat structures; be it the handclaps of Harmonica or the prominent drumming of Funeral For My Future Children (what a title, by the way).
It is really mesmerizing how ANNA VON HAUSSWOLFF manages to keep up the excitement over the whole hour of Ceremony with little ideas here and songwriting-deferrals from Drone to Gospel to Pop there. Comparisons have been drawn to KATE BUSH a lot – I’d rather call her a musical relative to contemporaries like SUSANNE SUNDFOR or ANJA PLASCHG. This is clearly still pop music, yet it is of an unlimited, profound and ambitious sort. Some might call it pathetic or even pretentious but that’s not the point of it – it’s just music that’s passionately digging in the peripheries where, naturally, a lot of darkness is to be found.