Photo by Anders Nydam

Photo by Anders Nydam


The singer / pianist Anna von Hausswolff hails from Sweden, the land of midnight sun, black metal and Ingmar Bergman. Her album Ceremony is primarily inspired by the death of her grandfather three years ago, and is informed by Anna’s childhood, when she and her sister sang in choirs and spent so much time around their father, the renowned avant-garde artist and composer Carl Michael von Hausswolff, as he worked with artists ranging from William S. Burroughs to Union Carbide Productions. To record this tribute to her grandfather, Anna, a unique and powerful singer, accompanies herself on that most sacred of instruments, the church organ. The result is a striking and deeply felt work that combines intimacy and majestic grandeur. Other Music Recording Co. (distributed by Fat Possum) releases Ceremony in North America on July 9, following a U.K. / E.U. release by City Slang on June 17. Von Hausswolff will tour North America in the fall.

Ceremony has garnered considerable acclaim, not only in Scandinavia, where it has already been released, but also well beyond. The album placed third on Amoeba Hollywood buyer Aaron Detroit’s Essential Albums of 2012 list, and sold out at New York’s Other Music, where co-founder Josh Madell stocked it as an import after falling in love with the music.

Throughout Ceremony, von Hausswolff accompanies herself on the pipe organ of the century-old Annedalskyrkan Church, in her native Gothenburg, Sweden, often joined by serpentine guitar and a restrained yet potent rhythm section. Some of the tracks, such as “Mountains Crave” and “Funeral for My Future Children,” are immediate—rhythmic, melodically accessible and epic on their own. But the album is a unified, continuous piece of music informed by a vast range of genres (film scores, black metal, opera, sacred music, noise) and artists (the Cocteau Twins, Jefferson Airplane, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Anna’s father). To be sure, the breadth of her musical palette, and that she is still in her mid-20s, makes it all the more remarkable that she has created such a singular, coherent and assured album.

Growing up in Gothenburg’s bohemian neighborhood of Haga, Anna and her younger sister, Maria, were surrounded by art and music. They lived with their mother in a small apartment nestled amongst concert halls, record shops, galleries and cafés. Music was everywhere, and none was more impactful than that of the girls’ own father. The senior von Hausswolff’s sound experiments and art installations opened his young daughters’ minds to a world of inspiration, and the headquarters of the Haga-based Radium label he founded in 1986, the same year Anna was born, became a playground and hideout for the sisters, a smoke-filled cabinet of wonders where a vast array of iconic artists took up residence amongst the girls’ schoolbooks and playthings.

After high school, Anna began to pursue a lifelong interest in architecture at Chalmers University before moving to Copenhagen to continue her studies of art and architecture at the Royal Academy of Art, where she is currently enrolled. And yet, as her studies continued, her musical passion only deepened, and in 2009 Anna released her first EP on Kning Disk, Track of Time, followed in 2010 by her debut full-length, Singing from the Grave. The album received rave reviews across Sweden and took various awards, and Anna toured across Scandinavia numerous times.

Since Kning Disk released Ceremony in Sweden last summer, the album has received near-universal critical praise and was nominated for two Swedish Grammys and a Nordic Prize.

Last updated: July 1, 2013


Blake Zidell