And so summer is finally here. Long evening walks in the park, a cheeky beer outside your favourite pub, a BBQ with family and friends. Oh and an album that deals with death, loss and the after-life.
Anna von Hausswolff’s second album “Ceremony” has finally been given its global release. The subject matter is dark and completely out of character with the celebration of summer I describe above but it is, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful pieces of work you are ever likely to hear. It’s also one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever had to undertake.
There are so many different layers to this album that I actually wasn’t too sure where to begin. I don’t mean that the album has been over produced; this is certainly not the case. The orchestration and feel of the album are more like a movie soundtrack than a regular release. In fact, such is the uniqueness of the ‘score’ you don’t even hear the vocals of Anna von Hausswolff until five minutes into the second track, “Deathbed”. I almost feel that reviewing each track individually is somewhat of an injustice as “Ceremony” works better as an entire piece.
There is so much here to admire. Von Hausswolff’s vocals are stunning and while being quite beautiful can also be dark and brooding. The church organ that features on most tracks gives a ghostly feel and compliments the vocals perfectly. There are other moments of genius also. The hand clapping and percussion on “Harmonica” make it the stand out song on the album, with its chilling lyrics “As he lay down on his hospital bed, I played him a song” the song is glorious and contains an almost country and western feel to it (she wrote this wrong shortly after he grandfather passed away).
The full range of Von Hausswolff’s vocals are tantalising. From quiet macabre at the beginning of the album to full opera towards the end. Even the organ takes a back seat as it’s replaced by electric guitar and thumping drums.
While I would suggest that “Ceremony” probably isn’t required listening for a week in Ibiza this album deserves to take its place amongst the greats. The quality of the song writing and the arrangement is of the highest. This is 60 minutes of utter escapism.