Anna Von Hausswolff – All Thoughts Fly (Southern Lord, 2020)

There’s a question I sometimes see being asked of artists which I find bothersome: “Where do you get your ideas from?” On the face of things it appears to be an innocent and straightforward query, a request for some insight into the creative process and the way in which the artist dreams up their material.

In reality it’s sort of naive and wishful, looking for a neat answer that blissfully ignores the complex inner workings of the mind, of the interface between the brewing subconscious and articulate conscious. If we knew the source of these ideas, wouldn’t everyone be tapping in to them all the time? Why would artists ever bother struggling with a piece if they could just access this magical Ideas Dimension?

Wherever these thoughts come from, what happens to them tends to be somewhat universal. After bubbling up from some distant fold in the brain, we snatch them before they disappear, and if they’re found wanting, we tease out more details and follow them through, letting more ideas conjoin until some coherent whole becomes formed. The where from is irrelevant, it’s the where we’re taking them to that’s exciting.

It’s all of this that shapes Anna Von Hausswollff’s latest album, All Thoughts Fly. Unlike past efforts the vocals have been stripped away and the Neoclassical Darkwave aspects sidelined in favour of an all pipe organ experience that strikes a far more Minimal and Dark Ambient bent.

Starter “Theatre of Nature” opens us up to these beautiful realms of possibility within, piping melodies in distinct staccato blasts, grandiose and clear and bold. Chords loop insistently, the piece imperceptibly rising in texture and volume as it begins to take flight. Fluttering arpeggios and thrilling sustains forge a lively and excitable atmosphere ready to launch the eager, impatient thoughts bursting out at the seams.

The out-the-gate energy is not a feature of every piece here by any means; sophomore “Dolore Di Orsini” is very much a recalibration after the opener, collapsing down into chugging chords and drone sustains, the organ’s mechanical components clicking and thumping as it emplaces each new note into the thought-stream. “Sacro Bosso” also languishes in rather more measured passages, plodding methodically along in thrumming bass-heavy anchorages. It’s surefooted, making careful, if laboured, placements, building itself up towards tumbling moments of freedom at the halfway mark as Anna’s fingers dazzle over keys with a flurry of life and impassioned discourse.

After the long stewing crescendo of organ drones in “Persefone”, the idiosyncratic loops of the opener begin again in the distant and condensed “Entering”, an excitable blossoming of sound that paves the way for centerpiece “All Thoughts Fly”. Ideas sprout everywhere here, immediately throwing us into whirling abstractions and divergent strands of spiralling arpeggios noodling out into every direction, each vying for attention. Slowly it begins to boil down, coalescing into something more elegant and coherent yet still fizzing with life and wandering tones.

It never seems to want to sit still, always fighting to advance and find ways to develop, follow paths that take it to new, bigger, more exciting and complete places. By the time the deeper layers enter the fray it’s well on its way to its ascension, its pace quickening in relentless and dizzying chords. It pulsates and flashes to a fever pitch, cresting into triumphant religiosity at its apex, moving so much thought and sound that the air seems scarcely able to keep up with its tumult.

Once we’re over the peak of the title track, there has to be a come down. The vision complete, our creative spike of adrenaline and productivity now fading into pause, we slide into elegant closing “Outside the Gate”. Slow chords move languidly whilst strange spectral airs in reedy pipes and whistling drones creep out with uncertainty, querying what we’ve done, critiquing these notions and concepts we’ve freed through our work. Was it right? Did it make sense? Have we oversold it? The piece deflates and shrinks back down into unformed, unshaped air, waiting for the next bright idea to come along.

The pursuit of something results in a continuum of ideas and thoughts, realised and unrealised. If we, the creator, have been through the process correctly, the end product is something organic and innate, a completed vision of excitements and interests that have flowed through us into something that is beyond us. Here in All Thoughts Fly, as in the minds of artists everywhere, there is no querying of where these thoughts have originated from, only that they have been through the process and culminated in these moments of creative ecstasy and pride. That should be enough.