Jenny Hval is a Norwegian singer/songwriter whose album 'Viscera' stirred
up my insides in a good way. This is body music. A guided tour of blood
and flesh and bone and hair. The intimacy and interiority of her vision
has a primal, elemental energy which warms and chills in equal measure.
Her haunting voice, gliding high and low on the stave, is extraordinary.
There is an unashamedly theatrical quality to her performances which brings
Laurie Anderson to mind. The shifts between melody and monologue have a
powerful dramatic presence which is as disconcerting as it is captivating.
This approach is heard to stunning effect on 'Portrait Of The Young Girl
As An Artist', a composition which runs the gamut from dusty bare boards
to the cavernous arches of a Gothic Cathedral; from the achingly spare
introduction to the tumultuous density of the conclusion. Sonic architecture.
Sometimes we are made to feel that we are witness to intensely private rituals.
The almost imperceptible opening pulse of 'Golden Locks' leads us into a
disquieting, almost folksy arrangement, wherein Ms Hval delivers a gorgeous
central vocal over a subdued tapestry of richly detailed harmony. One senses
the deep undertow of giant tectonic plates shifting slowly beneath our feet.
So to with the icy grandeur of 'This Is A Thirst'; her voice hovering in a
dark vacuum, lost and alone. The sense of stark desolation is overwhelming.
The tiny 'A Silver Fox', on the other hand is a beautifully warm invention; less
than two minutes of magical respite from the melancholy density of her muse.
'Milk Of Marrow' delivers some of the album's most mesmerising moments. The vivid
(and visceral) lyrical imagery unfolds against an almost hymn-like backdrop of
shimmering synth and guitar and sports one of the project's more rhythmically
defined compositional structures. The spirit of Kate Bush seems not a million
miles away. The coruscating power of the coda burns like a new star in the night sky.
The sublimely strange final track 'Black Morning/Viscera' gave me goosebumps!
Jenny Hval is an alchemist. An album to take with you to the ends of the earth.