|Jenny Hval — The Long Sleep EP|
Jenny Hval — The Long Sleep EP (5/25/2018) ΛΛ “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” The follow~up to Jenny Hval’s acclaimed 2016 album Blood Bitch is The Long Sleep, an adventurous new EP that sees the Norwegian multidisciplinary artist embracing an instinctive, even subconscious, approach to creating meaning. In contrast to Hval’s more explicitly conceptual work, The Long Sleep foregrounds the act of composition itself, letting the melodies and structures reveal the other elements of the songs. All of the songs on the EP recycle the same compositional motives, but manipulate them into very different shapes that take them further and further out of their original, “life~like” context.
ΛΛ Norwegian artist and writer Jenny Hval has developed her distinct take on intimate sound since the release of her debut eponymous album in 2006. For her last two solo albums, 2013’s Innocence Is Kinky and 2015’s Apocalypse, girl, she has received thoughtful and widespread international acclaim for her fascinating voice, singular delivery and markedly non~traditional arrangements which incorporate elements of poetry, prose writing, performance art, and film. The New York Times defines her writing as “taking a scalpel to the subjects of gender politics and sexuality.” Hval has eloquently brought to light issues of both male and female gaze, which for years had been swept under the rug and/or denied all together.
ΛΛ Hval’s conceptual takes on collective and individual gender identities and sociopolitical constructs landed Apocalypse, girl on dozens of year end lists and compelled writers everywhere to grapple with the age~old, yet previously unspoken, question: What is Soft Dick Rock? After touring for a year and earning her second Nordic Prize nomination, as any perfectionist would, Hval immediately went back into the studio to continue her work with acumen noise producer Lasse Marhaug, with whom she co~produces here on Blood Bitch. Her new effort is in many respects a complete 180° from her last in subject matter, execution and production. It is her most focused, but the lens is filtered through a gaze which the viewer least expects.
Birth name: Jenny Hval
Also known as: Rockettothesky (2006~2008)
Born: 11 July 1980, Tvedestrand, Norway
Location: Oslo, Norway
Album release: 5/25/2018
Record Label: Sacred Bones
Genre: Art Pop, Singer~Songwriter
Styles: Dream Pop, Alternative, Neo~Psychedelia, Avant~Garde
1. Spells 6:11
2. The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dream 4:41
3. The Long Sleep 10:48
4. I Want to Tell You Something 1:21
℗ 2018 Jenny Hval under exclusive license to Sacred Bones Records
*** Limited Edition Version: Edition of 350 hand~numbered copies, comes with alternate screen printed, wrap around sleeve, wax sealed, pressed on purple colored vinyl, and available by mail~order only. ONE PER PERSON LIMIT. ***
Styles: ambient pop, old sincerity, protracted finger~pruning baths
Others: Christina Carter, Hooverphonic, The Knife, David Thomas Broughton, Julia Holter
ΛΛ What am I doing here? Am I communicating? Am I promoting?
ΛΛ I just want to tell you something.
ΛΛ There should be something I could tell you, there should be something I could do to reach you directly, but there is nothing useful in the way we define “you”, or “me”. There should be something I could tell you, there should be something I could say directly without lyrics and melody.
ΛΛ Maybe that’s what I’m trying here. Something else than lyrics or melody. It’s not the words. It’s not in the rhythm. It’s not in the streaming. It’s not in the “message”. It’s not in the product. It’s not in the algorithms. It’s not something you decided. It’s not something they decided for you.
ΛΛ I want to tell you something. I just want to say: Thank you. I love you.
ΛΛ The follow~up to Jenny Hval’s acclaimed 2016 album Blood Bitch is The Long Sleep, an adventurous new EP that sees the Norwegian multidisciplinary artist embracing an instinctive, even subconscious, approach to creating meaning. In contrast to Hval’s more explicitly conceptual work, The Long Sleep foregrounds the act of composition itself, letting the melodies and structures reveal the other elements of the songs. All of the songs on the EP recycle the same compositional motives, but manipulate them into very different shapes that take them further and further out of their original, “life~like” context.
ΛΛ Hval recorded The Long Sleep with longtime collaborator Håvard Volden and producer Lasse Marhaug, along with an ace new supporting cast of talented players from the jazz world — Kyrre Laastad on percussion, Anja Lauvdal on piano, Espen Reinertsen on saxophone, and Eivind Lønning on trumpet. Hval calls them some of her favorite contemporary musicians, and their musical background helps to give the songs on The Long Sleep their intuitive, improvised feel.
by WILLCOMA, Score: ***½
ΛΛ There’s something strikingly pensive about the infinity~interrogating spirit shown on both The Long Sleep and Jenny Hval’s preceding release (as Lost Girls with Håvard Volden), Feeling. Her meditations are not precious (nor above preciousness) and frequently bemused about embarrassing, natural garden~variety human mess. Even at her most resplendently soaring~searching, the artist clings to sweaty oblong mantras that flirt with a purgative abject disgrace. She may sometimes passingly resemble a psychotropically compromised self~help guru, but Hval is always in there somewhere laughing with you by sharp little degrees you didn’t know (or had forgotten) were at your disposal.
ΛΛ While listening to these two releases (and to some extent, with the wisty mist turned down, 2016’s Blood Bitch), one can almost picture Hval, for all her disassociative flair, doing stock, montagey normal things like carefully assessing kindergarten drawings, gliding around the circle of kids, irradiated in shivering warmth. In other words, there is occasionally something mildly mundane and domestic about her strangeness, harrowing as it can be. It’s a curious wrinkle, but the artist’s dominating humor is actually more often intrepid or exultant. The whooping at the six~minute mark of Feeling’s “Accept” is close to epitomizing what it feels like when Hval’s music properly sends you. There is an arresting sensation of vast release and midnight blooms. Of untold resilience. You feel it, and you wanna yawp (like Ethan Hawpe).
ΛΛ From riveted at the poetry reading to discombobulated “Celtic Swing” contentment, these small packages manage to weave you into their fabric just as well as Hval’s longer albums. She continues to wield a mighty voice, a mousy voice, a mincing voice. A voice that bracingly bends into an object instrument, heroically rejecting language and the regimented reigning in of one’s primal vitality as a whole. She sounds at home wherever she wanders, and with The Long Sleep’s tell~me~you~aren’t~loving~this infectious centerpiece (“Spells”), this territory now includes a balmy saunter through Mclachland (“Conceptual Romance” came close, but this is closer). Not only is this song a barely~noticeable six minutes long, but it also sophisticatedly brow~furrows Hval’s signature unsettledness into its breezy bounce. “We will not be awake for long” is repeated in bubblegum gospel (pleading vamps included) fashion, but the singer’s conviction (and pristine pitch) is unmistakable and palpably stirring throughout.
ΛΛ In Hval and Volden’s discussion of their musical curation for each other’s funerals, one can get a glimpse of where “Spells” is coming from. It’s that exhilarated reflexive whisper (in~casket acoustics), while you ease your flushed cheek with a cool, steely eye on the finish line. It’s a tender, personal, broken~in sort of death chant. Yet, if there could ever be a resolved way to look at mass human exodus (a notion that renders the very practice of “looking” and “listening” hilariously meager), this song seems to keen for purchase on that impossibly tumultuous mental current. It boasts the ethereal charm of a supermarket siren song, but it’s ultimately closer to the high~walled mercy of fate, besting better angels since nature was nature. Tailing this keening on opposite ends is the “lost” notion of “exercising everything by tapping into nothing.” Interestingly, this line plays interchangeably to solitude, co~dependency and the tentative~to~total regard aimed at the slivery reaches of blinking hallway window lights (audience). Even the mulching drone that takes up much of the second half is flexing this tactile, jawset humming, faraway~fever intimacy. The lyrical self~admonishing solipsism then resembling attentive laments, then rote dispatches, then lines in the sand that you retrace again and again with mindless determination.
ΛΛ Hval parts with a postscript that directly questions, muses, asserts, and finally kisses you on your silly head (“Thank you/ I love you”). It’s a funny feeling to wind up with, (and slightly reminiscent of the ending of this sad old story), but its formality manages to take a dismayingly fleeting listen make it feel momentous. In addition to being another altogether strong effort from the artist, this is both a subtle expanding on and exciting departure from the gorgeous drift of the Lost Girls project. Exciting new terrain aside, there’ll hopefully be more Jenny Hval music to come soon. These 23 minutes do indeed leave one wanting more (not unlike the latest Grouper and Elysia Crampton releases). But even if The Long Sleep is (deep down or hiding in plain sight) a resigned, muted, end~of~the~line Kool~Aid party, the bug juice is delectable enough to call one back from the great unknown for seconds and so on.
By Matthew Blenkarn
Published May 22, 2018, Score: 8
ΛΛ Few artists will have a more productive 2018 than Jenny Hval. In March, the genre~defying Norwegian artist released a twelve~inch in two parts with long~time collaborator Håvard Volden under the name Lost Girls, and her debut novel, Paradise Rot, will arrive in October. Sandwiched between those, The Long Sleep could have been an afterthought, but Hval doesn’t deal in half measures. Her latest EP expands previous thematic preoccupations into bold, affecting new territory.
ΛΛ The big, intimidating issues are still present — music’s communicative potential, the effacement of the self, the pernicious influence of consumer capitalism — but Hval makes them personal, even inviting. Often written in an intimate second person, her lyrics comfort and beseech, reaching out to narrative subjects and listeners alike. Unstable familiarity bleeds through the EP as each track recycles motifs to new ends. In the direct address to the audience on “I Want to Tell You Something,” or the reframing of disco ball imagery on “The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dreams,” Hval imbues every repetition with fresh significance.
ΛΛ For all its theoretical rigour, though, The Long Sleep still embraces the instant gratification of pop music. “Spells” boasts Hval’s most anthemic chorus yet, an affirming show of vigour and solidarity undergirded by a poppy beat and warm piano. Even when “The Long Sleep” drifts into abstract instrumentals, it carries an appealing air of natural tranquility.
ΛΛ Hval’s knack for the conceptual can make her an elusive songwriter, but The Long Sleep offers plenty of immediate charms. Like the disco ball that hangs through the EP’s first half, Hval breaks down her ideas and refracts them into something luminous.
Words: Andrew Hannah / Photography: Sebastien Dehesdin / 25 OCTOBER 2016, 09:00 BST
→ Jenny Hval takes apart the interview process while embracing failure and ritual on Blood Bitch.
→ 2011 Viscera Rune Grammofon
→ 2012 Innocence Is Kinky Rune Grammofon
→ 2012 Nude On Sand Forced Exposure / Sofa (Norway)
→ 2014 Meshes of Voice Susannasonata
→ 2015 Apocalypse, Girl Sacred Bones
→ 2016 In The End His Voice Will Be the Sound of Paper Hubro
→ 2016 Blood Bitch Sacred Bones
→ 2018 The Long Sleep EP Sacred Bones
|Jenny Hval — The Long Sleep EP|