Norwegian electro noise pop artist pushes boundaries of not just music but life in 2015
Jenny Hval isn’t one to mince her words. This might have something to do with hailing from Norway where people are more frank and open about their feeling and thoughts. Well that’s what’s happened with all the Norwegians I’ve ever met anyway. On her latest album Apocalypse Girls, her third solo album since 2011, Hval’s frankness about sexuality, desire and sex’s role in society is nothing short of reactionary.
On Apocalypse Girls Hval has managed to create beautifully melodic and luxurious soundscapes, but contrasting them with vocals that range from straight up spoken word poetry to the lurid callings of sirens from distant shores and pure pop. Musically it’s more of the same. Thanks to members of Jaga Jazzist and Swans joining the fold, the music created runs the gambit of pop, junkyard orchestra, abstract guitars, faux classical strings and that full blown Scandinavian electro pop that infects your head and makes everything else fade into the ether. Lyrically however things are even more
It’s the lyrics on Apocalypse Girls that are the real stars. Two tracks in and Hval delivers this “In a restless half dream, I grab my cunt with my hand that isn’t clean, I imagine you’re doing the same, holding on to your soft dick, We don’t have to fuck, Can we just lie here being”. I can’t remember the last time I heard lyrics this honest and revealing. As Hval said recently “The reason it comes across as provocative is because it’s the surprise of it existing in a realm that is melodic and not necessarily loud or aggressive. That’s something that’s interesting to me: to take these words that are very taboo, or maybe discriminatory, and put them into a very soft setting, where they’re not about objectification. So, it’s not about ‘I’m watching you and your private parts’, it’s more the ordinary, everyday sexuality, which is pretty much in everything we do.” This is the crux of the album. Hval isn’t trying to offend, or upset, she’s just trying to show us ourselves in a different light. If these lyrics has appeared I a punk, hip-hop or metal track the power of the words would be slightly lost behind a wall of aggression and stereotypes, but put this very personal words in the context of a pop setting and you have something truly remarkable.
What Hval has done on Apocalypse Girls is channel the spirits of Kate Bush, Björk, Patti Smith and Donita Sparks, to name a few, and cherry pick elements that make each of them stand out in their own right, but not making it confrontational by wrapping these hard topics in a soft and poppy setting. This is the real power of the album and the artist behind it. While I may not play this album very often going forward, I will remember its message from now until the apocalypse.