This is the last gig of the tour that Anna von Hausswolff has been on to mark the release of her album ‘Dead Magic’. She plays the whole thing, but not in the same order as the LP. The other difference is the instruments she uses — it’s not possible for her to bring the organ from Copenhagen’s Marble Church that she used to record the album — but she still makes one hell of a noise in Tufnell Park’s secular Dome.
Her sound is so huge and awesome that is quite a shock to see what a tiny package it’s produced from when she performs her encore entirely from within the audience, which parts like the Red Sea before Moses as she walks through it. She sings tenderly and intimately to crowd members as glitterball lighting flashes around them: “I won’t leave until you leave me”. From the stage, atmospheric neo-classical chamber pop guitar accompanies her massive voice. Fans are left awe-struck, uttering that it’s “incredible” and “astonishing”, it’s “something else” and “so powerful”.
Encore track ‘Gösta’ is not from the new album, but the evening begins almost an hour and a half earlier with the LP’s opening song, ‘The Truth, the Glow, the Fall’. Under blue backlights and clouds of dry ice, von Hausswolff elicits massive chords from her chunky electric organ as her beautiful voice repeats the phrase “After the fall”. The first part of the piece continues — “I’ll find you” and “can you hear the song / it haunts you” — to a drone of guitar and bass played with bows, until the second guitar picks out a tune, a keyboard riff starts up and drums break open the track. The bass picks out the same five-note phrase as the synth (it’s like a slowed down version of the keyboard break in ‘Eat Shiitake Mushroooms’ by Let’s Eat Grandma) and von Hausswolff’s vocals soar and echo as she boogies behind her huge organ. A white spotlight picks her out from above amid the blue clouds. Nine minutes in, the song transitions into a third part; the bass player grabs his bow again to add to the drone, massive religious organ chords grow into the foreground against jingling percussive sounds, and von Hausswolff repeats the phrase: “Feel the fall”. A spotlight far to her left is the only non-blue lighting.
A technical glitch mars the start of the next song, with von Hausswolff scampering under her keyboards to switch over some cabling. “Let’s get to work,” she says, after teasing the technicians. Once the organ riff starts up, she’s back in blue-light territory, but with four white lights now slightly lifting the gloom. There’s a hint of prog about the proceedings: the two guitarists, bassist and drummer (using a tambourine instead of a stick) are all bearded and the synth guy has a moustache. But the track — an instrumental — is only five minutes long, refuting any suspicion of proggy self-indulgence.
Red lighting changes the mood for ‘Pomperipossa’ from 2015’s ‘The Miraculous’ — markedly shorter, faster and more manic than the new material, which resumes with ‘Ugly and Vengeful’. Dry ice makes for pale white backlighting, punctuated by spots of blue (again). Out of this murky setting comes clanging, bowed bass (again) and the gigantic, echoing von Hausswolff voice, seeming to say “I’m heavy like a star”. Bass-heavy, processional, atmospheric, sacramental and dark, the music suddenly gives space to a verse reminiscent of Elizabeth Fraser on This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song To The Siren’, but bigger. Von Hausswolff dances as a drum beat starts and the lead guitar psyches out; she grabs the mic; she plays her second synth; the piece shifts to a heavier key as the guitars riff; she lets loose; and the track culminates with a workout after more than a quarter of an hour of seriously intense music.
Another brief technical glitch sees a roadie on stage with some gaffer tape. Next, bathed in red light, von Hausswolff forsakes her organ and comes to the front of the stage with a mouth organ for the folky, pretty tune of ‘Källans återuppståndelse’, slide guitar joining the waves of bowed droning from the bass and second guitar: “I see your face and I see your smile from all the traces that I have loved, behold”. She plays acoustic guitar on ‘Electra’, her voice repeatedly a primal scream, the riffs slow and heavy, the lights red, white and blue.
“We have reached our final number,” von Hausswolff says, introducing her group: Karl Vento (guitar), David Sabel (bass), Joel Fabiansson (guitar), Ulrik Ording (drums) and Filip Leyman (synthesisers). They cover Jeff Alexander’s ‘Come Wander With Me’, turning the simple yet spooky three-minute theme from a 1964 episode of TV classic ‘The Twilight Zone’ into another 15-minute folk-drone-prog-synth rock epic. Her clear Nordic voice pierces the droning guitars that build and break down cyclically. It’s loud, dark and, ultimately, satisfying as lead guitar emerges from the storm and a rock beat surfaces from the maelstrom, with strobe effects accentuating the repetitive rhythm of drum and bass. Rounding off the unforgettable evening, there’s that astonishing walkabout encore of ‘Gösta’.
All photos: Ian Bourne
‘Dead Magic’ is out now via City Slang
Anna von Hausswolff’s setlist at the Dome:
01 ‘The Truth, the Glow, the Fall’
02 ‘The Marble Eye’
04 ‘Ugly and Vengeful’
05 ‘Källans återuppståndelse’
06 ‘The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra’
07 ‘Come Wander with Me’ (Jeff Alexander cover)
08 ‘Gösta’ (Anna sings in audience)