Posts Tagged ‘Live at Montreux Jazz Festival’

Southern Lord (CD/DL) | Pomperipossa Records (LP – Europe) – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps the last thing one would expect to find being released on Southern Lord is a live jazz album. The label is, after all, home to much to the rawest, loudest, harshest metal and hardcore punk, not to mention, of course, the doom drone legends that are Sunn O))). But then, if Anna von Hausswolff seems like something of a roster misfit, it’s fair to say that her catalogue doesn’t conform to any obvious jazz tropes either.

The performance, from 2018, as the notes advise, features six fan-favourites from the two beloved albums; The Miraculous and Dead Magic, with the backing of a full band including additional vocals from her sister / cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff, and it’s ‘The Truth, The Glow, The Fall’ from Dead Magic, which opens the set in mesmerizingly hypnotic style. Against widescreen drones and rumbles, von Hausswolff’s vocal soar and swoop operatically. It’s a powerful and compelling start which paves the way for the grandiose expanse of creeping fear that is ‘Pomperipossa’ from The Miraculous.

‘The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra’ slows to a crawl with a Swans-like dirge centred around a simple, trudging repetition of bass and drum, and it’s here that things really take a turn for the heavy and the intensity builds. This rendition reminds me of the epic take on ‘Your Salvation’ by Foetus on the Male live album, grinding away at a single chord and hammering it into the ground before blossoming into something jaw-droppingly magnificent, and there simply are no words.

From hereon in, things only become more intense, more spectacular, with the brooding atmospheric ‘Ugly and Vengeful’ stretching out to almost twenty minutes, and leads the listener through an epic journey through a succession of sonic terrains. It’s a clear centrepiece within a set of vast sonic and emotional scale. It’s far, far beyond the domains of jazz, and even beyond the domain of ‘mere’ music: this is transportation and transcendental, taking you beyond the physical world and out of your own space to one beyond imagination. What’s perhaps most impressive is that this is all live; there’s no studio tweaking or trickery, but musicians conjuring pure aural alchemy in real-time.

After the delicate respite of ‘Källans återuppståndelse’, the fifteen-minute ‘Come Wander With Me Deliverance’ brings a suitably epic finale. The backing may be sparse at first, but the understated, almost wispy drones place von Hausswolff spectacular vocals to the fore. Then, when the drums and megalithic guitars crash in, they really do bring the weight. Yet the vocals remain the dominant force, and it builds – and builds, and builds – to a monumental crescendo. To have actually been there! The recording does a superb job of conveying just how gargantuan that finish would have been, and while there truly is no substitute for being in close proximity to a band working together, witnessing that connection and intuition as it flickers like electricity across the stage, and nothing can touch the experience of hearing, and feeling, music at gig volume as it vibrates the bones, Live at Montreux Jazz Festival comes very, very close.

We’re days into January, but it’s unlikely there’ll be a better live album this year.

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