NBHAP Rating: 4,5/5
[one_half last=”yes”]JENNY HVAL
Label: Sacred Bones Records
02. Take Care Of Yourself
03. That Battle Is Over
04. White Underground
06. Why This_
07. Some Days
09. Angels and Anaemia.
10. Holy Land
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“Think big, girl, like a king, think kingsize”-so opens JENNY HVAL’s new album, Apocalypse, girl. That line is part of a track called Kingsize, a spoken-word piece. HVAL’s monologue is accompanied by curious background noises; thumps, creaks, and a constant squeaking, building and increasing in intensity. These noises combined hint that something is occurring behind closed doors and behind HVAL’s voice, something obviously sinister but still unknown to the listener. It’s an unsettling experience.
It’s a good way to start the album, because the sense of something unclear carries throughout the album. Apocalypse, girl is such a dense, exploratory piece of art that to understand it perfectly and completely would need some of the academics that try and decipher past cultures from little pieces of pottery: a world with some of the pieces missing, a conversation with a chunk of the words redacted. But exploring this album is fascinating.
The album drills its neuroses into the listener though repetition, lines like “are you taking care of yourself” popping up on Take Care Of Yourself, That Battle Is Over and the ghostly White Underground. HVAL’s themes and obsessions permeate the entire album, examined, dissected and reassembled over wild and fragmented sonic canvasses. She also borrows a hefty amount of religious imagery and tools of expression to help her in her examination, with a song titles like Holy Land, Sabbath and Heaven and the insistence that “I’m thirty-three now, that’s Jesus age” – the perfect age for self-expression?
Of course, you can fit all the dramatic information, brilliant ideas and big questions you like into your album, but to make the whole thing work you still need songs. And Apocalypse, girl has these in abundance. At the heart of the album are the two singles, absolute blockbuster songs, That Battle Is Over and Sabbath. That Battle… is a slow moving, woozy trip through consumerist fatigue (“I can consume what I want now”) while HVAL’s voice swirls around, waxing and waning between hearty and full and anorexic-thin. Sabbath has perhaps the album’s sweetest chorus, a silky thing set against a thumping drumbeat and HVAL’s gender-exploring narrative. The whole thing ends with Holy Land, ten minutes of abstract noise, the last minute or so made unnerving by tortured, sliced-up gasping.
Apocalypse, girl is probably not an album you’re going to hear played as background muzak in your local coffee shop anytime soon. It’s confronting, challenging, at times pretty uncomfortable, and it demands time and attention. If you’re willing to put the effort in and give it that time and attention it’ll reward you. It’s an articulate, exposed through the wild range of topics that capture HVAL’s imagination, set to experimental music built from the rubble of whatever remains of genre definitions in modern music. If that kind of set-up sounds good, you’ll struggle to find an album that executes it better than Apocalypse, girl.
Apocalypse, girl is a dense piece of art, a combination of an unashamedly intelligent exploration of modern-world themes, and experimental music. It’s one of the best albums of its kind, or indeed of any kind, you’ll come across all year.