Anna von Hausswolff, All Thoughts Fly review (Southern Lord Records 2020)

Did you ever think to yourself, “I sure do love heavy music but I wish there was a whole album of heavy music on solo pipe organ”? Anna Von Hausswolff is here to make your wish come true.

Working out of Gothenburg, Sweden, Anna Von Hausswolff is well known for her melodic compositions and often avant-garde approach to music. She has performed all over the world on the pipe organ, and has endeavored to ingratiate the instrument to music fans of all dimensions simply by showing them what it sounds like and what it can do.

On her 2018 album Dead Magic, von Hausswolff made liberal use of organ music, as she did on her four other albums, especially Ceremony (2014). The new one, however, is all pipe organ all day long – no vocals and no other instruments. The organ she used for this recording “is situated in Gothenburg and is a Swedish replica of the Arp Schnitger organ in Germany. It is the largest organ tuned in Quarter-comma Meantone temperament in the world. With its four manuals, one pedal and fifty-four stops, it was built as part of a ten-year research project reconstructing 17th Century North German organ building craft.” That’s from the press release. I don’t know much about pipe organs so most of it is lost on me, but I appreciate an instrument with a long history and unique provenance.

Not being an aficionado of the pipe organ but having heard one played many times, I can say that I have never heard one sound like this. The sadness and melancholy, pain and dread that von Hausswolff is able to produce is astonishing. There are passages that sound like an organ you might hear during a church service, but most of it is so much more than that. The composition and execution is far beyond the image in my head of what this album could be. I was completely blown away.

I have never heard anything like this. Of course it isn’t heavy metal – it is a pipe organ. The emotion in this music, the raw feeling and the gentle sentiment and the ethereal presence are all moving in ways that are difficult to articulate. You have to hear it. Recommended.

September 25th is release day for All Thoughts Fly, from Southern Lord and available through Bandcamp.


Anna von Hausswolff, All Thoughts Fly review (Southern Lord Records 2020)