Anna Von Hausswolff – The Miraculous...

Like music from another time: Swedish singer-songwriter Anna von Hausswolff sweeps us away to a darkly seductive fantasy realm on her third album The Miraculous. It’s an incredibly striking brew of Goth, Prog-Rock, Folk and Doom Metal, with Von Hausswolff’s lithe and dexterous vocals commanding our attention at the centre of it all. Von Hasswolff would have slotted very comfortably onto the 4AD roster during the record labels most fruitful period during the eighties – there are strong echoes of Dead Can Dance and the Cocteau Twins (to a lesser extent) on this album. A dominant feature of the overall sound on the Miraculous is the use of the Acusticum Pipe Organ, one of the largest instruments of its kind housing an impressive 9,000 pipes. This, along with Von Hausswolff’s operatic vocals, lends the album much of its Gothic ambience, the dark heart beating at its very core. Opening with the nine minutes of ‘Discovery’, the record quickly hits its stride – Hausswolff lets her imagination run wild with ambitious arrangements that fuse and splice so many different genres. Nowhere is this more evident than on ‘Come Wander With Me/Deliverance’ another track that spares nothing in laying bare her vision – the sparse, ethereal intro slowly dissolving into feedback and chaos and a bludgeoning two note riff. It’s Von Hausswolff’s fearlessness and lack of restraint in terms of the arrangements that is both the albums weakness and strength – there are times when the whole thing sounds like it might collapse under its own semi-pompous weight. But the words and music are delivered with absolute conviction – there is no hint of irony or humour, even when it is at it’s most shrieking and dramatic. It would be no surprise to see ‘Evocation’ feature in the best tracks of 2015...

Chelsea Wolfe – The Sugar Club, 24th April...

The intimate confines of the Sugar Club proved to be the perfect setting for Californian singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe on her first visit to these shores. In front of a near full house, Wolfe delivered a spellbinding set, mixing the ethereal Goth-folk of her most recent album with the more abrasive art rock of her earlier material. She opened with a number of cuts from ‘Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs’ – the delicate and eerie ‘Spinning Centres’ and the yearning ‘Flatlands’ instantly grabbing the attention of the audience. Wolfe cuts an imposing figure on stage; tall and statuesque with long black hair, she is a striking and captivating presence and by the time she got around to playing the sinister, sickly ‘Boyfriend’ she had the audience mesmerised, even managing to silence the usual inane bar chatter that is such an unfortunate part of the gig going experience. The arrival of a drummer and guitarist signalled a shift in emphasis for the rest of the set – a brief, instrumental guitar noise workout broke the spell and all of a sudden, we were plunged into the glorious darkness of her second album ‘Apokalypsis’. Songs like ‘Mer’ and ‘Moses’ have a dark, sexual allure recalling some of PJ Harvey’s early work; Wolfe seemed somehow more at home delivering these songs than some of the quieter numbers. The magnificent ‘Movie Screen’ with its layered vocal loops and otherworldly noises was scarily good while the crashing guitar chords of ‘Pale On Pale’ built to the obligatory feedback drenched climax, bringing down the curtain on an impressive and beguiling set. Wolfe and her band returned to the stage for a two song encore, satisfying the appreciative audience’s thirst to hear more. Largely unknown in this part of the...