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In a recent interview with The Line of Best Fit, Anna von Hausswolff talked about the inspiration for her new album The Miraculous being rooted in a song she wrote two years ago while touring behind her sophomore album Ceremony called 'Källan,' a thirty minute instrumental piece that was inspired by a book of the same name by Walter Ljungquist, that, as she explained, was about "kids on a spiritual journey, their search for something holy, the disappointment of not finding it, their joy in hunting for it, and the importance of letting go of control."

The title is also a reference to another source of inspiration: the childhood stories her family told her about an incredibly beautiful place they used to visit that was unfortunately marred forever by a violent uprising against the country's king which left thousands of peasants slaughtered. It's an album that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality whose songs conjure otherworldly visions of darkness and dread, and myth and wonder. Yet it isn't terrifying in the least, but rather like something you would expect to find lurking inside the pages of a slightly darker version of Grimm's Fairy Tales as she explores these themes with an almost twisted childlike sense of wonderment.

Ceremony was a gorgeous but ultimately grim record, one whose themes of death and the rituals surrounding it were informed by the passing of von Hausswolff's grandfather, making it feel at times as if you were listening in on a funeral procession. Listening to both side by side, The Miraculous by comparison seems almost uplifting though this isn't exactly an album you would throw on in the middle of a party or squeeze into a summer playlist; it's just as dark and eerie, but the difference being it's nowhere near as macabre. Recorded with her live band in the Acusticum concert hall in Piteå, it could stand as her most ambitious and grandiose statement to date. Here, she switches out the Annedal organ she used on that album for an Acusticum Pipe Organ, which is said to be one of the largest instruments of its kind in Europe.

The Acusticum Pipe Organ is made up of no less than 9000 pipes and 208 stops and has unusual features such as a built-in glockenspiel, vibraphone, celeste, percussion, and some pipes housed in a water bath that produce what von Hausswolff describes as "a screaming bird sound", which you can make out on 'The Hope Only Of Empty Men'. 'Elsewhere, 'Pomperipossa' and 'An Oath' open with chilling gothic organ fills that resemble incidental music from early '80s slasher films.

If you're at all familiar with her work, then you know she doesn't really operate on a small scale. Though far from being inaccessible, her music is anything but conventional or straightforward, and to some ears, it may come off a little indulgent and even overreaching in terms of its scope and ambitions. Yet for all of the overreaching complexities of her compositions and their themes, it can be immersive and rewarding if given the chance to reveal itself. It's not the kind of music that rewards you with instant gratification but rather, its rewards come with the patience you grant it. Her songs often unfold at an almost glacial pace, piling on layers of instruments and sounds to create rich atmospheres that lure you back every time to discover something you might have previously overlooked.

'Come Wander With Me/Deliverance'--one of the two lengthiest songs here--begins with a beautifully mournful combination of whirring organs and her operatic singing as it idly drifts for several minutes before scorched riffs and pounding drums pulls the song in a more doom-laden direction and gradually builds up the momentum then dissipates back into the fog while the title-track is comprised of ten minutes worth droning climbing organs and a distant ominous thump that create a passage of disquieting and glacial beauty somewhat reminiscent of Nico's Marble Index. Even when she scales her songs back to a lean three minutes like on 'Evocation', she's still capable of creating a sprawling sense of drama as it crawls at an almost uncomfortable pace to the point you can nearly feel the aching tension building in the gaps of silence between each snare hit.

Von Hausswolff has a powerful and expressive voice, and where she only partly tapped into her potential as a vocalist on Ceremony, here, she fully comes into her own, using her voice as instrument and pushing and exploring her range in the process. On the title-track, her wordless harmonies sound as if they are welling up from beneath the surface of an icy body of water, she closes 'Come Wander With Me/Deliverance' with nearly unhinged banshee wails and her soaring cools on 'An Oath' capture the essence of early '80s Siouxsie Sioux.

Like with most conceptual albums, The Miraculous' storyline may be a little difficult to grasp the first time around, and even if you never fully connect with its narrative, it isn't a prerequisite to fully appreciating its breathtaking beauty, its occasionally messy decadence, and its widescreen ambition. Ceremony may have easily conquered the sophomore slump, but The Miraculous is the moment where von Hausswolff truly arrives as an artist.

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