Anna von Hausswolff | Oslo | 8 December 2015
Photo credit: Anders Nydam
There are a few signs that Anna von Hausswolff is of this earth: the sips of water between songs; the spontaneous response to her audience’s cheers (“This is unbelievable. It’s fucking amazing.”); the admission, as the encore begins, that she’s exhausted.
But for most of tonight she seems otherworldly, a long-haired silhouette with a transcendent voice. Seated behind a keyboard that gets as much of a workout as her vocal cords, the Swedish musician performs with such sustained intensity that, during songs, the capacity Oslo audience are rendered silent. No chatting. No texting. Just 375 people staring at a stage, seemingly transfixed by the supernatural sounds washing over them.
And it’s like that from the first stabs of industrial noise that mark the start of set opener ‘Discovery’, a 10-minute post-apocalyptic soundtrack of swirling synths and guitar distortion that rises and falls to a martial drumbeat, climaxing in von Hausswolff shouting “run run run”. Of course the crowd stay put, sticking around for a set that, in equal measures, haunts (the ethereal ‘Pomperipossa’, gothic – not goth – tragedy ‘Deathbed’, menacing epic ‘Come Wander with Me/Deliverance’) and uplifts (the hymnal ‘En Ensam Vandrare’, stridently angelic ‘Sova’, and even the funereal ‘Evocation’, joyous finale ‘Mountains Crave’).
‘Stranger’ achieves both at once, the inherent hopefulness of the music – all sunny, gently strummed acoustic guitars – contrasted by a melancholic vocal performed by a dancing, fist-raised von Hausswolff against a backdrop of Aurora Borealis lighting that only makes it more difficult to remember she’s human.