Blood Bitch finds Jenny Hval at the top of her game

Blood BitchThe last time I spoke to Jenny Hval, we broached the topic of how the Norwegian artist uses comfortable and uncomfortable sounds to manipulate the listener. I suggested that perhaps the more traditionally beautiful moments on her latest release (then 2015's critically adored Apocalypse, girl) operated as a disruptive tool as much as the noise. She didn't really agree. "I'm here to make you uncomfortable. But I don’t see the more harmonious parts of my work as lulling. I’m not a trickster. I truly believe that there is room for all kinds of elements together without them betraying one another." Now back with another pleasantly challenging album, Blood Bitch, that statement feels truer than ever.

"What's this album about, Jenny?" a voice asks at the start of "The Great Undressing". "It's about vampires," Jenny replies. And why not? Because really, this album is about blood, Hval's fascination with the unspoken moments of the body, waking up to discover a vitality expelled from her, drained. Vampires as anti-women, and vampires as feminine agents (I think of Lucy in Dram Stoker's tale, the only cure for her hysteria being repeated penetration with Van Helsing's phallic stake). Like every Jenny Hval album, Blood Bitch is curious, playful, devastatingly smart. It's also brutal, experimental, prone to fits of noise, found sound, screaming. It's also beautiful.

But for the first time, it's seamless. She has mastered every element in her own periodic table, and the result is an album that realises that dream without any betrayal: a cohesive artistic statement wherein the sacred and the mundane are utterly married, and there seems nothing strange about putting the most perfect pop song of the year ("Conceptual Romance") between tracks primarily composed of heavy breathing and a spoken word story about smearing your own menstrual effluence all over a hotel bedroom, respectively. Even the questionable puns employed for song titles ("In the Red", "Period Piece") link together with Hval's commitment to playfulness, and her work towards an intellectualism that incorporates it.

"I don't think anyone ever talked to me using the word desire at all" she says on closing track "Lorna", while crystalline keyboards shimmer in the background, looped in from some abandoned chaos emerald bonus stage. After all the noise and excitement, and the ambitious lyrical palette that came before ("Like capitalism, it works like unrequited love, it never rests..."), it's a crushingly straightforward statement that lays bare the essence of her work. Jenny Hval is not a trickster. If she does make us uncomfortable, it's through naked honesty, a commitment to touch and examine the human body in its quietest, most vulnerable places, and to love them. And in that respect, on her own terms, Blood Bitch represents the finest accomplishment of her already impressive legacy.

Release: 30th September 2016, Sacred Bones Records


One Response to “Blood Bitch finds Jenny Hval at the top of her game”


    1. Blood Bitch finds Jenny Hval at the top of her game – Live List - 16/09/2016

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