Anna Von Hausswolff: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival | Review


Anna Von Hausswolff’s music, for me, does not live in live performances but in the pure and almost too perfect image that her music creates. In its archives, I have heard the swell of the waves, the antiquity of old stone, the way old cathedrals and rotten churches seem to sag under the weight of time and history. You can smell the must-see of the cemeteries and the old Bibles still in their pews. You can watch the funeral veils of the mourners waver as they make their way to the edge of the cool, packed earth next to the grave where their loved one will be consigned. It’s gothic music in the truest sense, capturing the ripe melodrama and quivering wounds of novels like The monk Where Melmoth the wanderer Where Songs of Maldoror rather than the spacious and almost watery sounds of the mid-period or early Bauhaus Cure. His music is, of course, made by real people, in the flesh, a human sensibility that is deeply imbued both in the choices of composition and production of his records and a humanity on which fragility and contemplation necessary of the mysterium tremendum of the Gothic rests. But I had never conceived of his music as music that would fit well in a purely live environment.

It then becomes intriguing to approach a living document of her. Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, as the name suggests, the catch happening at the famous Swiss festival which, over the years, has spread its wings a bit. Montreux was the site of one of Yes’s biggest live albums, the fiery reunion of Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin as well as an absolutely killer performance by Voivod, showing that concert organizers’ sense of the limits and extensions of jazz thinking is far more avant-garde than we think. In this case, Hausswolff and the band arrived in support of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds as part of the festival. There are, in retrospect, great similarities between Hausswolff’s music, especially in its most exciting and direct version, and Cave’s; Cave, being a master of the performing arts, using this human space to convey a more ruined and haunted view of his morbid southern Gothic tales, should have given me some idea of ​​his own approach to the stage dilemma.

The first subject she tackles satisfactorily is that of the lineup and setlist combination. This ensemble was recorded in 2018 during its tour for Dead magic, one of his records in the middle of his band’s arrangement rather than albums like Ceremony Where All thoughts fly away which are more conducive to solo performances. As such, she drew the setlist exclusively from material from Dead magic and its predecessor the miraculous, these being the two most unified records by an almost metallic approach to folk, post-rock and prog. This deliberately limited palette of the full range of its capabilities turns out to be a blessing; it offers a strong form to potential performances, a form that has clearly been carefully considered by Hausswolff, who on this set is not mistaken for a breathtaking performance cataloging a type of composition that she can write and feel that she can evoke, but instead focusing on an almost romantic definition set of songs. The programming of these recordings is more or less a complete group more Hausswolff, with the players including a drummer, bassist, keyboardist and two guitarists before including him as a float on various instruments (as well as his sister on additional vocals). That this setting allows for stable group formation while Hausswolff herself is free to move to whatever instrument needs to be the focal point at any given time is something the group was clearly aware of; there is a cohesive and rich almost symphonic force swelling behind her as she moves the eye of the song through a variety of instruments and vocal lines. The level of discipline shown here is almost more like listening to the Godspeed You peak! Black Emperor recordings as a songwriter’s touring group, a testament to how each player was locked into their role in creating a cohesive aesthetic expression.

The next thing that worries me about its transition to a live recording world is its choice of sequencing, offering everything but “The Marble Eye” by Dead magic as well as adding both “Pompéripossa” and “Come Wander With Me / Deliverance” by the miraculous to the procedure. This leaves him with three long pieces to explain and three smaller, more concise pieces to separate, a wise allocation of emotional time. But my apprehension of her live abilities once again proved to be overly cautious in the way she played with the space and grandeur of these small rooms. It’s not so much that it’s daring to play longer, more intense versions of your work live, but there’s the real concern of ignoring the energy of the venue and the musicians to see if in the part of an entire concert, if an extension makes emotional sense. Here they do, and so her indulgence for the energies of the group and the crowd at these times feels like a sensitive decision on the part of a performer rather than a pre-planned move dull to the emotional fiber of the evening.

What is perhaps shocking about the setlist is less its content, which is mistaken about the strengths of its full group setup, and more that it chooses to end the setlist with “Come Wander With Me. / Deliverance “from the miraculous rather than the record she was making at the time and, moreover, that it was a song which, at the time of the miraculousThe release was not considered the most immediate of them (an honor that would go to its “Discovery” opener). But the wisdom of that choice is validated when, in its final minutes, the once dark and stormy Gothic tone, like a hurricane shaking a house in Georgia or summer thunder terrorizing a Swiss lodge or an old Italian castle, suddenly shatters. with the sound of a guitar solo. I actually had to go back and recheck the original recording after hearing that; the guitar on this live recording does not emerge naturally and organically into the arrangement as all the instrumentation before it did in the ensemble as a whole, working synchronously towards a harmonious ensemble, but instead roars like, well, a guitar solo. The best part is its flawless operation. Suddenly, after nearly an hour of growing tension and smoldering energy, Von Hausswolff sees fit to let his group explode the room, lets his guitarist reign to choose a tone that ripples like lightning striking in the open air. There is heat and passion, a fire that previously was subliminal and embodied in anguish suddenly given a powerful voice. There you go, the solo is actually on the studio recording, although it’s blended into the body of the song in a less catchy way, instead bending into the fabric of the continuous album.

This live recording is not a recording of wild left turns in arrangement and performance. The songs captured here are no different from their studio counterparts. What makes the difference are these little gestures and the form they take, whether it’s placing “Come Wander With Me / Deliverance” in a position where it can suddenly shine fully or letting it echo. naturalness and reverberation of music in a live space inform the color and space of their performance. This recording captures a performance that, like all great ensembles, is not a random, random set of songs chosen at random but a crafted experience, an experience where each song draws upon or modulates the energies of the last, where a narrative thread is maintained throughout the proceedings and an appropriate ending is given in the most glorious and dreadful way, the guitar solo. Also, it proves something that I should have known from the start; Anna Von Hausswolff, a master composer, arranger and esthete of studio records, brings this same level of skill and intention to a live setting. Whether that offers a lot to a newcomer is debatable, but knowing the psyches of most of his fans, it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be of interest to those who already know his work.

Label: Lord of the south

Year: 2022

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Anna Von Hausswolff in concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival
Anna von Hauswolff performing live at the Montreux Jazz Festival Critique

Langdon hickman

Langdon Hickman listens to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.


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