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Von Hausswolff is a Swedish singer—her father is the fearless experimental musician C.M. von Hausswolff—but until the release of her stunning second album, Ceremony (Other Music/Kning Disk), her music was pretty run-of-the-mill. Her 2010 debut album, Singing From the Grave, served up fairly innocuous, commonplace, breathy yet introspective pop. She didn't entirely ditch that template on Ceremony, but by surrounding her songs with massive chords played on the organ of the Annedal Church in her native Gothenberg, she radically altered the complexion of the music, giving it a severe intensity and sense of grandeur (drummer Christopher Cantillo also heightens the music's power with some heavy, reverb-drenched beats). According to press materials, the album was inspired by the death of von Hausswolff's grandfather three years ago, and there's certainly a deep sense of both gravity and solemnity to the music. Her singing was lovely in its delicate beauty on the first record, but here she really lets it rip, suggesting P.J. Harvey at her most operatic. That earlier record gave little indication of how powerful her voice could be. There's an impressive range to the album, so I've posted two tracks below to indicate two different sides of the record. The epic "Deathbed" captures von Hausswolff at her most extroverted on a stormy, episodic churn, while "Mountains Crave" is a pop song, more or less, although it's still pretty moody—it kind of reminds me of Julia Holter's "Goddess Eyes II." Monday's concert marks von Hausswolff's Chicago debut.No Dreams (Important), is her most accomplished effort yet, a collection of shimmering instrumentals built from sustained tones—sometimes produced by meticulously harnessed feedback, sometimes with the bowing of her electric guitar—that arrive as gently rolling, ambient tracks embedded with rich detail. As you can hear below on "Mannahatta," her music constantly shape-shifts like a cloud, but there's an impressive weight to the sounds that sort of contradicts that metaphor. Numerous lines and textures combine—sounds that undulate and billow, ring with haunting high-pitched tones, shudder with low-end vibrations, glisten with glassy, rapidly picked notes, and hum with the suppressed rage of noise—to create amorphous pieces equally effective for meditation or total engagement. I don't mean to suggest this is background music—although played quietly enough it can provide lovely ambience—because there are so many things going on in Lipstate's lush work that using it that way would be wasteful, but there is something strangely peaceful about it. But when she plays live there's enough juice behind her output that it couldn't be heard that way.
Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research, Mirage (Jazzheads)
Duke Pearson, Prairie Dog (Atlantic, Japan)
Woo, Itis Cosy Inside (Drag City/Yoga)
Christian Fennesz, Aun: The Beginning and the End of All Things (Ash)
Dr. Feelgood, Down by the Jetty (EMI)