Jenny Hval
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Jenny Hval

Oslo, Oslo County, Norway | INDIE

Oslo, Oslo County, Norway | INDIE
Band Alternative Avant-garde

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The body, this holiest of temples, is the subject of Jenny Hval’s new album, but it is its most visceral functions and primal organs that are the focus of her attention. Blood, piss, spit, sweat, erections, clitoris, eye sockets, tongues, finger nails, pores and skin, senses are all exposed in the cold light of day, used and abused in every song. Yet, if nothing is too crude or taboo for the Norwegian songstress, Viscera is actually a poetic journey like no other, carried by Hval’s deeply moving voice, part Liz Fraser, part Björk, part Mari Boine, yet totally and utterly unique.

Hval made a name for herself as Rockettothesky, under which banner she released two albums, To Sing You Apple Trees (2006) and Medusa (2008). Viscera is quite a different offering. As she shakes off the guise and ditches the pop influences that scoured her previous effort to investigate much more delicate atmospheric musical forms, largely served by acoustic instrumentation upon which Helge Sten, of Deathprod fame, underlines with subtle electronic touches, Hval steps into a much more contrasted terrain, reflected in the intricacy of her melodies and the impressive level of control she has over her vocals. Indeed, it is Hval’s mouth and larynx which should be celebrated above all here. While it sometimes appeared out of control in the past, her performance is here so nuanced and exquisite, at times soft and graceful, at others sharp and angular, solitary of layered into spine-tingling harmonies, it is the focal point around which everything else revolves.

Hval coveys brutal imagery in very angelic fashion, making even the crudest words sound natural and relevant. And she confronts the listener head on on all fronts right from the opening line of Engines In The City, and continues to do so all the way through, from the spellbinding Blood Fight, punctuated by an earthy bass drum and airy guitar motifs, the haunting Golden Locks, first aired on the excellent Twenty Centuries Of Stony Sleep at the end of last year, to the beautiful pastoral expenses of How Gentle, A Silver Fox and the title track, and the deeply introspective This Is A Thirst, upon which the Deathprod hand can be felt very strongly. On Portrait Of The Young Girl As An Artist, she adopts a much more angular approach as subtle acoustic touches are replaced with heavy stabs of electric guitars, a nod perhaps to her former incarnation, but even here Hval’s voice cuts through to appear at once primeval and ethereal.

There is such urgency throughout this record that it is quite astonishing how Hval manages to retain any lightness in her music, but she does, and Sten picks up on just enough to bring it all to life in sprightly bright colours and tones. Viscera might deal with crude aspects of life, but it does so in an inspired existential fashion that, while one would expect such venture to be voyeuristic and pornographic, it is actually evocative and celebratory. And it is fair to say that the word ‘cunt’ was probably never delivered in any more poetic fashion anywhere than on this utterly flawless record.

5/5 - themilkfactory.co.uk/


Oslo´s fines takes off her Rockettothesky mask to reveal an artist of breathtaking vision... Tonight, to her credit, she not only pulls off the incredible complexity of the album, she almost eclipses it live, her equal parts chilling and magical performance further enhanced by the spectacular setting of the Kulturkirken Jacob... In fact, Hval is close to curating a new musical language, as affecting and original as other iconic and untouchable icons as Björk, PJ Harvey and Kate Bush. Challenging though she may be, the contradiction between the mediaeval maiden and the terrifying Gorgon that she finds within herself and pours out - her voice sometimes tickling the roof, at other times tearing it off - makes her one of the most exciting talents Norway has to offer. Make no mistake: Jenny Hval is a national treasure, and it´s time her riches were shared internationally. Who needs words when you´ve got music like this... (Wyndham Wallace) - by:Larm News


Von norwegischen Kritikern wird diese Künstlerin bereits als tolle Entdeckung gefeiert. Als Rockettothesky lieferte sie bereits zwei lustig versponnende Alben. Ihr dritter Streich klingt reduzierte, wie Gespenster-Kammer-Musik, und erinnert an berühmte Kolleginnen wie Björk oder Siouxie. Aber letztlich ist dies eine zutiefts individuelle Platte. - Kulturspiegel


Jenny Hval´s third album is deeply rooted within the body. These are fairytales woven out of flesh and skin as well as being a surreal journey through Hval´s own anatomy... Hval´s work has been deemed provocative through her use of sexuality in imegery... But it seems designed not to shock or excite. This is sexuality expressed as part of one´s own personal identity and impossible to separate or distinguish oneself from. The darkly beautiful "Golden Locks" goes further with it´s paean to "... the waste products of the body..." and references to golden showers, but without any scatological meaning inferred. Instead, there is a desire to make poetry from human bodily functions. "Viscera" feels like receiving an intimate sound letter from a confidante one has never met. - Rock-a-Rolla


"Viscera" was inspired by "The Story Of O" and the opening lines will draw attention: I arrived in town with an electric toothbrush pressed against my clitoris". Having also written full-lenght prose and for the stage, Hval´s imagery is rich, from the secret milk between lips to the hair that slowly melts to piss. Collaborating here with normally improvising musicians brings the feel of "Lorca"-era Tim Buckley. "Viscera"´s structured songs are accessible though, and some even rock ("Portrait Of The Young Girl As an Artist"). "Blood Flight"´s melody is affectingly devotional. Disconcerting and seductive, "Viscera" resonates astonishingly. 4/5. - MOJO


Her evocative surrealistic language is planted in a lush backdrop of zither, guitar and church organ (played by Hval herself), more guitars by Håvard Volden and drums by Kyrre Laastad. The record as a whole is a finely sculpted construction. Fragile melodic lasercut patterns are set against an earthly beat of tambourine and bass drum, giving the album a folky drive... Hval is steeped in the magic of words, having written a novel, an academic dissertation (about Kate Bush) as well as poems, beside her musical outings as founder of avant pop group Rockettothesky and the duo Meshes Of Voice with Susanna Wallumrød. "Viscera" forms part of a prolific artist´s growing body of work, and manages a rare thing: to be a stunning achievement both conceptually and musically. - Wire Magazine


Discography

Albums:
- Viscera (2011)
- Medea (2008)
- To sing you apple trees (2006)

EPs:
- Cigars EP (2006)

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Bio

Jenny Hval is a Norwegian artist and writer. With her background in writing and performance her music is poetic, sensual, challenging, dark and beautiful as well as melodic and spacious. The music is composed and arranged by improvising. It follows the lyrics wherever they go: spoken word, surrealist folk tales, or just plain provocative imagery. Modernist fantasy? Fantastic anatomy?

In 2006, Hval released her successfull debut album “To Sing You Apple Trees” under the moniker Rockettothesky. The album received rave reviews and became a surprise hit with its mix of pop, poetry and rampant sexuality. She was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy in the Best New Act category and she played most of the big Norwegian festivals in 2007, as well as shows and small festivals in UK and Europe.
With her second album, “Medea” (2008, also as Rockettothesky), a different and more experimental tone was set. Hval invoked the greek tragic heroine Medea – the monstrous mother, powerful sorceress, and foreign woman – through spoken word and improvised sound textures. She also started playing live with free improv musicians Håvard Volden (guitar) and Kyrre Laastad (drums & percussion).

Since the release of Medea, Hval has completed several other projects: composing and performing the commissioned piece “Meshes of Voice” with singer and composer Susanna Wallumrød (Susanna and the Magical Orchestra) for Ladyfest 2009, composing and performing at the Ultima Festival for Contemporary Music, published the slightly controversial novel “Perlebryggeriet” (“The Pearl Brewery”, 2009) and started a free folk/improv duo with Håvard Volden (Nude on Sand). ?

“Viscera” (Rune Grammofon 2011) is Hval's third album, and the first using her own name. It is set in the body. The songs are stories of flesh and travelling, both sensual and provocative. She wanted to make free music, without a conceptual framework, but realised after recording the album that all the songs deal with travelling in one way or another. Some songs have a modernist protagonist - an unknown and yet present I - whereas other songs take place in the body, visceral travelling. Inside becomes outside, the body is turned inside out.