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Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky

Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky

by , 10 May 2013

The following statement is 0% hyperbole; Jenny Hval can now claim to have written two of the greatest album opening lyrics of all time. 2011's Viscera begins with the line, |I arrived in town with an electric toothbrush pressed against my clitoris," a great start to any story I think you'll agree. On her recent release, Innocence Is Kinky, Hval begins in a low mutter that purrs through the mix, stating that "At night I watch people fucking on my computer." This is the signature strength of Jenny Hval, her unerring skill to shock and provoke, not just through her often obscene lyricism, but also through her ability to write songs which lead you blindfolded through unknown territory.

Innocence Is Kinky began its life as a piece of live performance art with Jenny Hval taking experimental sounds and provocative monologues and transforming them into a soft musical setting so that those in attendance could tune into the lyrical concepts without feeling cluttered by sound. However, Hval herself stated that as soon as she began showcasing this material to live audiences, she craved for noisy accompaniment, to be able to shout and screech these emotions until her vocal chords cracked, and that people could fully understand the sound of her voice. Whilst on the subject of Hval's voice, if you aren't yet acquainted with it, Innocence Is Kinky features some wonderfully playful vocal displays; whether she is attaining seemingly unreachable high notes on 'Mephisto In The Water' or positively yodelling on 'Oslo Oedipus', you can never be quite sure where she will take the song next. Sometimes she sounds like a sex-obsessed Joanna Newsom or goes for a full-on PJ Harvey style wail (incidentally, PJ Harvey collaborator John parish finds himself behind the desk on Innocence Is Kinky), but more often than not, Jenny Hval sounds like no-one else. This is her voice and, although all vocal chords are essentially made from the same flaps of skin and tissue, in each person they possess a unique quality that makes them distinct. This is a theme which runs throughout the album, achieving almost enlightened prevalence on album closer 'The Seer' in which Hval declares, "the voice is a second flesh / that cannot be seen / this body is not for vision / the seer cannot go there."

Stylistically, the album clanks and clatters through experimental compositions, sometimes cryptic but often stark lyricism and, more importantly, Jenny Hval's best songs to date. 'Mephisto In The Water' is elevated by angelic vocal harmonies and serene instrumentation, but it is also a song which brilliantly represents the blissful resignation of a drowning soul. As Hval's vocals are dragged out, and the melody begins to slow, the heart quickens at the feeling of life slipping away; the body falling deeper, vision submitting to shadows, and the soul grasping for the surface. The album also features some rather challenging tracks that stem from those initial experimental live sessions, 'Give Me That Sound' featuring rumbling drone, ear-ringing feedback and more graphic imagery; "I want to sing like a continuous echo of splitting hymens."

It is evidently clear that Jenny Hval is no ordinary artist, on 'Amphibious Androgynous' she claims that she "tried to write love songs" but could not, instead any mentions of longing love usually descends into violence, pornography, and death. Hval portrays her emotions with unflinching sincerity, with countless references to perversity and sexual depravity, she excavates deep into her mind before putting pen to paper, breaking past the social conventions of "love" and unearthing up more animalistic, physical emotions. Innocence Is Kinky may not be an easy listen, with its hardened emotions, harsh sounds and brilliantly erratic vocal style, but Jenny Hval has taken what was once a floundering live art performance and fashioned it into her most enduring recorded work yet. This is her definitive voice, a flesh that will not rot, but preserved as one of the most unique pop statements of the 21st century.

Rating: 9/10

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