Any record can have atmosphere, but it takes a keen sense of exploration and craftsmanship to create a body of work evoking a widescreen experience. Anna Von Hausswolff is the rare artist who can boast such a musical presence. Her four previous studio records display a breadth of style and creativity, rich in theatrical depth and tremendous emotion. On her latest release, All Thoughts Fly, Von Hausswolff continues this progression with a record of ethereal wonder.
Having touched upon post-metal, gothic and pop aesthetics in the past, Von Hausswolff forgoes all of that, including any vocal presence, for an instrumental record consisting only of pipe organ. The organ is a classical instrument—much in the way that, for many of us, it elicits the imagery of medieval settings. I can’t remember the last time I heard an organ used on a record so heavily (other than Von Hausswolff’s previous album), but in the way she creates a whole experience solely out of this instrument is astounding.
All Thoughts Fly balances along the line between light and dark; its moments of brightness spring forth as its periods of gloom simmer. Opening track “Theatre of Nature” is a prime example of this duality, each key providing various depths in pitch against a backdrop of ambient droning. When listening to this track, though the emotional aspect is certainly impressive, it’s interesting to pick up on the technical elements at play. Along with the instrument’s mechanical functions, allowing Von Hausswolff to employ stops and its air supply system, the organ was recorded with several microphones; two room mics and two pairs of close mics placed inside the organ. Because of these, Von Hausswolff grabs hold of each small detail of the organ, discovering sonic gems that create an overall intricate experience.
The record’s first single, “Sacro Bosco,” is a rumination on an ancient and beautiful garden found in Italy, filled with mythological sculptures and old buildings. Sonically, Von Hausswolff uses the song to capture the park’s timelessness; how it has weathered through the ages and the romanticism it still embodies to this day. The organ bass adds a touch of darkness to a track otherwise overwhelmed by luminous rings. Through just one solitary instrument, Von Hausswolff creates a vast spectrum of sound. “Persefone,” which follows right after, is much more of a somber movement. The low tones of the organ hum, the slightest ring coming just above a misty bass. Flowing like the crawl of a funeral procession, the track presents a melancholic aura that captures the tone of a rainy day (or the inside of an old gothic cathedral).
This quality—of stirring imagery, light and emotion—is present throughout All Thoughts Fly. Von Hausswolff has crafted a record of rich meditation, where musical movement is thoughtful and layered with feeling. While listening to the album, one might feel an urge to embrace a sense of stillness—to allow oneself to drift with the material. From track to track, Anna Von Hausswolff brings her audience on a journey throughout time; to take part in a space without walls and a comfort to feel present.
Label: Southern Lord
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program, Michael Pementel is a published music journalist, specializing in metal and its numerous subgenres. Along with his work for Treble and Bloody Disgusting, he has also written for Consequence of Sound, Metal Injection, Dread Central, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Funimation blog.