Anna Von Hauswolff – Dead Magic (City Slang, 2018)

I’ve slowly parted ways with old friends over the years as many do, lost touch with people, gradually (often unintentionally) excised them from my life. But I’ve never fallen out of love. I feel that’s a special category of loss, the slow and unavoidable slip of a fading partner who we just cant keep. There’s inevitable resistance, pleading, fighting, but once the unravelling begins I imagine it’s difficult to stop.

Dead Magic is a tale of desynchronisation, of disintegration and loss. An intense effort of awesome organ drones and thrilling vocals, it channels Neoclassic Darkwave and heady Experimental Rock aspects that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Swans record. And at no point across its heaving emotional span do we ever feel in control of the situation.

This is best expressed in the outright aggression of standout “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra”, claustrophobic in its sucking percussive drama and heavy guitar. Basal organ drone provides an evocative, godly backdrop and a calamitous air. “My feet are not enough to save me” Anna sings, “My love is not enough to save me”, vocal whoops tearing through the oppressive music with rallying vigour. There’s a fight here, but the resignation has already set in and hearty catharsis is needed.

It deftly sinks into the brooding passages of lengthy “Ugly and Vengeful”, unfurling slowly on drone wings as charcoal smudges of whispery vocals brush distantly. There’s a retreat into one’s self at first, a mean-spirited internal monologue decrying the unfairness of things to the silent darkness. Then when she speaks, there’s a sensitivity, a carefulness to her words, all on a knife-edge.

“I’m restless, I’m older

I’m heavy, like a storm”

Music suddenly arrives to fill the space, black waves of deliberation growing in thick disaffection…and it never stops growing. For 8 ensuing minutes things only get more emphatic, more passionate in resistance, pausing only to allow Anna room to unleash her catharsis. Organ twists into disharmonious arpeggiations, drums pound with war-like intensity, guitar burning like molten iron. If we can’t be happy, then why should they.

It falls in stark contrast with similarly lengthy opener “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall”, who slowly eases in on sombre organ beds and crooning, heartbroken passages. Janglier percussion and textural creep masks the haunted vibe of the hollow entrance, blanketing walls of obfuscation that quash the uncomfortable realisation of loss. “Unexpected, out of nowhere, lost the truth told for me. He sadly sung for me, can you hear the sound? It wants you” It distorts into spaced out drone vastness, creaking and crumbling into disarray and absence.

Acceptance comes only in the final two pieces, as “The Marble Eye” spins out undulating organ chords in eerily intimate passages. There’s a largely sepulchral air, like we’re digging the grave of a partnership, rolling the stone over the tomb of a past love. It culminates in the icy closer of “Kallans ateruppstandelse”, Cold Resurrection. Chilly synth drones glow in slow and mournful whiteness, whilst Anna speaks of loss and change, of imprinting. There’s a life and a world after this event, one of future hope and light, both entities changed forever by their entanglement. It’s sad, this passing on, but it’s tender, glad to have been touched and loved and knowing that a shard of us will be left behind in the other.

This is a gloriously evocative and consumptive record, filled with such passion and such desire to maintain and withhold what it cares for. It fans flames for a spark that will never catch, no matter how hard it tries, and while it ultimately becomes a futile effort, at least it has the good grace to admit it fought and lost, and accept that the loss is understandable and final. Thrilling.