Album: Dead Magic by Anna von Hausswolff
Anna von Hausswolff is a Swedish organist and singer-songwriter, who I first encountered when she opened for Swans on their 2016 tour for their album The Glowing Man. Hausswolff’s fifth LP, Dead Magic, definitely sounds like it was inspired by Swans’ recent discography, but not to the point that it becomes wholly derivative. For one thing, her voice gives the music an entirely different image, one which is much more elegant and ethereal (which is saying quite a lot, because Swans’ output as of late has been pretty damn ethereal as it is). Hausswolff has put together five colossal tracks here, not only large in duration but also massive in pure sound; listening to this album feels like falling into some giant subterranean expanse.
Fortunately, Hausswolff doesn’t skimp out on actual songwriting when she’s creating these huge soundscapes. The opening track, “The Truth, The Glow, The Fall”, has a very steady and deliberate organ fragment that keeps the entire twelve-minute journey tightly anchored, and as a result you don’t really feel the length at all. The next track, “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra”, is about half the length of the opener, but packs five times the punch. The song features dark, menacing acoustic guitar strums accompanied by lumbering, creeping drums that build into a nightmarish tapestry against which Hausswolff bemoans an unknown doom. Her vocals get harsher throughout, punctuated by ascending whoops that send chills down my spine everytime. This is an absolute monster of a track, and the next three songs carry an equally overpowering dread. While not the easiest album to listen to, Dead Magic is a very rewarding experience: a beautiful, terrifying nightmare.
My Score: 8/10
Album: 2012-2017 by Against All Logic
Nicolas Jaar is a Chilean-American electronic music producer who is responsible for some of the more significant and forward-thinking electronic music from this decade. With this latest release, under the moniker Against All Logic, Jaar moves in the direction of house-music with a compilation of songs from the period between 2012 and 2017, aptly titled 2012-2017. Not the catchiest or most memorable title, but that doesn’t reflect the music at all. The tracks here are euphoric, joyous and, of course, geared to make you move. The opener, “This Old House Is All I Have”, almost brought me to tears on my first listen, just from pure ecstasy. Other songs, like “Some Kind of Game” and “Know You”, made me lose my mind and throw myself around my room like a maniac, leaving me breathless and drenched in sweat. Some cuts, like “City Fade”, are more subdued, opting for fantastic grooves over face-smashing beats.
Unfortunately, the album doesn’t manage to maintain the excitement all the way through. The record is over an hour long, and it suffers as a result, particularly in the second half. Songs like “Flash in the Pan” and “Rave on You” aren’t bad, but they demand close and attentive listening to be appreciated. After the highs of the first half of the album, I’m not looking to get all analytical right away. Quieter music is fine, but not this quiet, this abruptly. Still, 2012-2017 is a really good collection of quality dance music, with some really fantastic highlights in the first half.
My Score: 7/10