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Anna von Hausswolff - All Thoughts Fly CD (album) cover


Anna von Hausswolff

Crossover Prog

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Instrumental songs performed on church organ that were inspired by a megalithic sculpture park in Bomarzo, Italia, called, "Sacro Bosco," "Parco dei Mostri" or the Gardens of Bomarzo. They were commissioned in the 16th Century by the Italian patron of the arts, Pier Francesco (styled "Vicino") Orsini to commemorate the death of his beloved wife.

1. "Theatre of Nature" (6:00) opens like a conversation between several elementals. As the pattern becomes evident other less ordered, more chaotic sounds and themes are added, until the original rhythm begins to feel overwhelmed by the polyphony and polyrhythmics of all that is going on. It's brilliant! At the same time, when one steps back, one can see and feel the overlying cohesiveness and wholeness of the cacophony. A wonderful interpretation of the macrocosm of Nature. (9.25/10)

2. "Dolore di Orsini" (4:04) contrarily peaceful and soothing while also being deeply disturbing, even horrific. It's simple but very powerful. Anna channeling her inner Art Zoyd. (9/10)

3. "Sacro Bosco" (6:23) pulsing bass pedal play and wind-sweeping noise give it an industrial sound--something that would be fitting for the 1927 Fritz Lang silent movie, Metropolis. Seemingly-incidental notes and flourishes in the treble end eventually turn into full chords, even sustained, in the fifth and sixth minutes. The finish in the final minute is stark and powerful with only the pulsing bass pedal notes before the prolonged sound of decay carries us to the end. (9.5/10)

4. "Persefone" (7:08) breathy Andean-flute-like chords open this sounding quite appropriate for the Queen of the Underworld. Underlying church-processional-like chords join in, slowly adding to the melody, thickening the palette. The occasional addition of single notes effect major and surprising shifts in mood as the slow-building chords change and morph quite unexpectedly, quite spectacularly. This is one of my favorite renderings I've ever heard of the spirit of this Olympian goddess after whom my daughter was named. Anna has managed to capture both the strife and sadness of this captive and yet fill it with the optimism and youthful exuberance that the Goddess of the Spring (and Rebirth) would naturally possess. (14.25/15)

5. "Entering" (2:10) I expect Anna is trying here to capture the flood of diverse emotions that wash over a person entering Count Orsini's garden of grieving. Nice. (4.5/5)

6. "All Thoughts Fly" (12:23) Anna using a minimalist approach á la Steve Reich & Phillip Glass in order to express the impression of the words on the upper lip of the huge Orcus statue in the Sacro Bosco gardens. It just doesn't work with the organ; I feel more muddled than flighty. Fail. Rated up for its effective use as pleasing, inoffensive background music. (19.5/25)

7. "Outside the Gate (for Bruna)" (5:23) gorgeous, emotional. For me, this music symbolizes the craziness that one is confronted with (especially in Y2K20) by the world outside of the Park of Monsters. My favorite song on the album. (10/10)

Total Time 43:31

I found myself thinking a lot of the 1997 ART ZOYD Häxan soundtrack album while listening to this album. The beauty Anna expresses while conveying such tension throughout is truly astonishing.

Despite the failed experiment into the world of minimalism of the title song (and album's only epic), I consider this a masterpiece of human creativity--delivered to us by a master of artistic self-expression.

Report this review (#2461825)
Posted Saturday, October 31, 2020 | Review Permalink
5 stars Many will wish to avoid an album performed exclusively on the pipe organ but as a lover of classical music and symphonic prog I was intrigued. It is pretty rare to come across extensive use of the pipe organ in prog music - the last that did that I recall was the excellent Hymnarium by Resonaxis, an interesting Australian prog band. This is very different as it has no vocals and is less obviously a rock album of songs and more a body of work. It is quite remarkable as an album and I found it compelling as first I decided to buy it and then listened to it on repeat over and over again. Anna Von Hausswoulff is a fine composer of melodies which are often minimalist but draw you in as they develop. There are some extraordinary sound effects on tracks such as Sacro Bosco where a deep rhythmic vibration forms the basis of the track. Unlike anything I have heard this year. A fine album worthy of five stars.
Report this review (#2490880)
Posted Wednesday, January 6, 2021 | Review Permalink
3 stars If someone had told me that one day I would have purchased and enjoyed an instrumental album of solo pipe organ performances, I would have said they were crazy! And, yet, here I am, writing a review for Anna von Hausswolff's latest solo album, All Thoughts Fly, which is exactly that: seven instrumental songs written and performed by von Hausswolff on the North German Baroque organ of Gothenburg's Örgryte New Church. And, even crazier: I actually liked it!

I have a huge respect for Anna von Hausswolff as an artist. I first came into contact with her music when she released her beautifully melodic and melancholic sophomore album Ceremony in 2012. I fell in love with her magic, spirited vocals and her gothic, experimental compositions combining organ music with post-rock/metal. I continued to follow her art when she released the more angular, dronier, and at the same time proggier albums The Miraculous and Dead Magic in 2015 and 2018. As on Ceremony, also on these records one of the highlights for me was Anna's spellbinding, spine-tingling vocal performance, halfway between Diamanda Galas and Kate Bush. Therefore, when she announced that her new album, All Thoughts Fly, was a purely instrumental organ-based affair I was initially taken aback as I feared that I would miss her voice and the post-rock/metal vibes of her earlier releases. Do not get me wrong: I do miss them, and I hope that in the future she will return to explore sonic territories closer to her earlier albums. Nevertheless, I found myself enjoying All Thoughts Fly way more than I initially thought it was possible (in case you haven't guessed yet, instrumental albums in general are not really my cup of tea).

One surprising aspect of All Thoughts Fly is how varied and diverse its seven compositions are. The album moves between playful, symphonic uptempo tracks like opener "Theatre of Nature", more sombre and majestic pieces like "Dolore di Orsini" and "Outside the Gate", and amorphous, drony soundscapes like "Sacro Bosco" and the title-track. The heterogeneity of its compositions is one of the strengths of the album, as it injects enough variation and unexpected polymorphism to the music to keep things interesting and never boring throughout the record. I am also amazed by the breadth and variety of sounds that Anna can actually extract out of the pipe organ: not only notes but also hisses, wails, whispers, moans and even rhythmic percussion. It is really quite astonishing and underscores the massive job that Anna and producer Filip Leyman did in terms of post-processing the sound and producing the album.

The music is generally very drone-oriented, based on simple motifs and patterns that are repeated with varying intensity and nuance, adding layers upon layers of sound to create strong dynamics. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the basic motifs that typically appear at the beginning of a song and the gradual build-up of noises and sounds that eventually take over and drench the composition into a wall of sound that brings it to a powerful cathartic climax. This is for example the structure of two of my favorite songs of the album, "Theatre of Nature" and "Dolore di Orsini". Among the drony tracks, the bassy, pulsating pattern of "Sacro Bosco" is particularly remarkable. It transmits a sense of excitement and at the same time fear and deference that captures very well the awe of walking through the Garden of Bomarzo that Anna visited in 2017 and inspired the compositions of this record. Also known as Park of the Monsters, the Sacro Bosco is a 16th-century garden populated by grotesque, deformed sculptures and buildings that are submerged in the natural vegetation. The stunning cover of the album shows one of its most famous sculptures and gives you a good idea of the mystical, dark and awe-inspiring nature of the place. Come to think about it, this is also how I feel about the pipe organ after having listened to this album: awe-struck by its ominous yet magic sound capabilities.

Overall, this was a surprisingly (at least for me) enjoyable album, meditative and immersive, never boring despite the repetitive and drony nature of its compositions. Anna's experimentations with the sonic possibilities of the pipe organ are quite astonishing and eye-opening about this awesome instrument. She is an incredible artist, always creating music that is inventive, moving and ambitious and I remain curious about what her next steps will be.

Report this review (#2492377)
Posted Sunday, January 10, 2021 | Review Permalink
2 stars I'm always looking for new artists and performers. I want to be surprised and amazed. That's why I almost daily watch for new stuff on ProgArchives. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon All Thoughts Fly by Anna von Hausswolff, which seems enigmatic enough to call out my curiosity. Being a keyboard player myself, the idea of an album exclusively played on a pipe organ was very appealing to me. The experience was, how can I say, not as expected. I'm a man of a few words and this is my review : Zzzzzzzzzzzz. For the effort though, 2 out of 5 stars.
Report this review (#2500956)
Posted Monday, February 1, 2021 | Review Permalink

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