The stunning (and scary) beauty behind ‘All Thoughts Fly’

Life is more exciting when you actively search out for different things. Uncharted territory, the hidden gem, the road less taken. Applying this analogy to music, it’s likely that the beautifully terrifying neoclassical dark wave genre could serve as one new place to explore. 

To get a taste of neoclassical dark wave, Anna von Hausswolff is the best place to start. While her music can be classified or categorized in numerous other ways, von Hausswolff definitely blends classical and darker, drone-like elements into her compositions. The Swedish composer and songwriter has made significant waves in drone music and gothic-inspired music for over a decade, with projects like “Ceremony” (2012) and “Dead Magic” (2018). Cuts like “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall” (2018) represent her artistic styles and abilities, both of which are to be admired by listeners and fellow musicians.

Through Southern Lord Records, von Hausswolff was able to release her latest project “All Thoughts Fly” (2020). As she shared on Instagram, the album was made during the COVID-19 pandemic. This album is vastly different from “Dead Magic” in the sense that von Hausswolff doesn’t feature any of her vocals on the songs, nor is there any percussion. So, this album basically focuses on and showcases her musicianship, and as it turns out, it does so very well.

Theatre of Nature” is von Hausswolff’s way of introducing us to this project, and it’s a very fitting song name. She starts off with some cool sounds from one of her favorite instruments: the pipe organ. With dreamy synth-like effects, everything is drenched in reverb. Different ends of the organ play a cool back-and-forth pattern, and it feels like you’re in a cathedral in the middle of a dark forest. The constant panning effect seems to personify each of the tones in this pattern, almost like different animals, or presences, coming from all directions in this dark forest.

Next is “Dolore di Orsini” in which we’re greeted by another organ with an accompanying bass tone that nearly mimics an upright bass. A viola eventually joins in to create more eerie tones. Nothing seems unexplainable here musically, but the timbre chills us to the bone; the sounds all feel like a suspenseful moment in a horror movie.

This tone continues in “Sacro Bosco” in which more panned noise kicks off the track, then a new bass tone that also travels from left to right repeatedly. Some organ/flute-like combo pops in and out, and one tone borders bagpipe territory. The track becomes very busy, but it’s definitely an organized mess. It sounds like hundreds of tones are layering on top of one another. It’s hard to keep track of all of them at the same time, but nothing is too distracting that the whole track becomes a cacophony. Moments like these are extremely pleasant reminders of how well von Hausswolff can mesh sounds together.

This mesh of sounds also leads to desired effects for emotions, like on the following “Persefone.” The typical bass and organ play a more somber song with a chord progression that never reaches a happy conclusion. The synths, bass and organ, all get louder and heavier as the song goes on, but everything seems more like a desperate cry for help than a buildup to some grand ending. The higher synths and organ ring out for the remaining minute of the song, almost like a whining that fades to a whimper. Until “Entering” comes on, which is a truly terrifying two-minute moment on the album. Every sound on here rides a fine line between sounding natural and artificial, making it the most unsettling two minutes of the album.

All Thoughts Fly” is the longest track on the album, led by a repeating melody in the mid and high-end range of the organ. At around the five-minute mark, the quick change in pace for the synths and organ gives a sense of rejuvenation to the listener. It’s as if rays of sunlight are peeking through a dark and dusty room. Then eight minutes in, the synths start to slow down, but increase in volume, as a heavier bass comes in, shaking the orchestration like an earthquake. This track concludes on a calmer note. 

Despite this relieving conclusion, it’s not until “Outside the Gate (for Bruna)when we see a more sincere and tranquil finale for the album. The underlying tone for the song is new. It’s not like there’s a sense of peace necessarily, as von Hausswolff definitely left some elements intentionally in suspense. There’s a new feeling of hope in the flute-like tone and the lower-end chord progression, but something about it makes the listener feel like a storm is still coming.

One underlying tone persists throughout the project, yet so many different visuals can be pictured while listening. In her own words, this album is about “the importance of sharing for surviving, creating space and evolving. Once you’ve shared your words they are not only yours anymore.” The pipe organ serves as your only friend throughout this experience, as von Hausswolff’s arrangements behave like a guiding force, bringing you to places, unlike anything you’ve seen before.


Summary

Anna von Hausswolff's latest instrumental project displays her true understanding of textural and compositional beauty.

4 stars
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