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Baker's Dozen

Monumental Simplicity: Anna Von Hausswolff's Favourite Albums
John Freeman , December 8th, 2015 09:51

The Swedish musician talks to John Freeman about the 13 records that "opened doors" and helped create the blueprint for the mighty organ drone of her new album, The Miraculous, before she plays two UK shows

Anna von Hausswolff is obviously savvy to the 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail' mantra. For this interview, the third time her and I have chatted for the Quietus, she comes armed with copious notes about the 13 albums that have "opened up many doors" - Anna is taking her Baker's Dozen seriously.

During the week before our interview, von Hausswolff had sent me a number of emails outlining the seismic challenge of honing down her list. I had expected to see PJ Harvey feature, after von Hausswolff had gushed about the mighty Let England Shake during our previous discussion. However, the album is conspicuous by its absence - brutally, Peej is deemed "too much of an icon" to warrant a place. Anna is taking her Baker's Dozen very, very seriously.

The albums that do make the final cut provide a kaleidoscopic insight into the source of inspiration and breadth of influence for the Copenhagen-based Swedish musician. Prog rock, neo-folk, minimalistic electronica, film scores and doom drone all feature, as well as a compilation album by Chris Isaak - who von Hausswollf refers to as "the man" - and a four-album suite of music made by a convicted murderer.

Von Hausswolff recently released her own stunning album, The Miraculous. Recorded in the Swedish village of Piteå on the Acusticum - a enormous 9,000-pipe organ housing a built-in glockenspiel, a vibraphone, a celeste, several percussion options and a water bath for submerged pipe antics - The Miraculous is a monumental listen, fusing the organ's apocalypse-inducing roar to prog rock, drone and modern jazz song structures.

Not that The Miraculous is densely cluttered; while discussing her Baker's choices, Anna tells me that the melodies of Bo Hansson, the minimalism of Philip Glass and the drone of Barn Owl both helped outline the concept of "using simplicity to make something monumental".

Indeed, on receiving her Baker's Dozen list, and going back for yet another listen to The Miraculous, it becomes clear that artists as diverse as Earth, Nico, Hansson and Nils Frahm have all left an indelible imprint on von Hausswolff's music. At several points during our conversation, she could be as easily describing her own music as much as the albums she has chosen. "The thing with this list is that I feel kinship to the artists and I recognise myself in this music," Anna says. "I have been very inspired by all of these records in the making of my own music. They have affected me in different ways - both emotionally and creatively."

Many of the albums that make up Anna's Baker's Dozen list are either majorly or completely instrumental. "I sing so much and I use my voice every day, I can get a little bit tired of listening to voices - even though they are powerful tools," she states when I ask why this is the case. "Instrumental music is easier for me to relax in and enjoy."

A number of her album choices are film soundtracks and Anna tells me that even though she has never scored a film, she always imagines her albums as if they were soundtracks to some as-yet-unmade movie. It's a lovely notion, and one that makes me think that the film for The Miraculous would be an extremely epic affair.

The Miraculous is out now on City Slang. Anna von Hausswolff plays Oslo in London tonight and The Cookie in Leicester tomorrow; for full details and tickets, head here. Click on the image below to begin scrolling through Anna's choices, which run in no particular order