Jenny Hval: Innocence Is Kinky
Rune Grammofon

Innocence Is Kinky, Jenny Hval's follow-up to 2011's Viscera, was produced by none other than PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish. It's a detail worth noting, as Hval's disc shares with Harvey's work a no-holds-barred fearlessness in its subject matter and delivery (the opening line's a case in point: "At night I watch people fucking on my computer"). Hval's a provocateur whose music grows from the same soil as fellow boundary-pushers Patti Smith, Bjork, and Harvey and whose bold lyrical content is as comfortable referencing Renée Falconetti, the indelible face of Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 silent film The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, as literary theorist Roland Barthes (via the song “Death Of The Author”).

The rock trio sound of Viscera is expanded upon in a battery of strings and percussion resources that amplifies Innocence Is Kinky's freewheeling sound. Stylistically, the album encompasses rock (the stabbing, guitar-fueled aggression of the title track), psychedelic folk (“Mephisto in the Water”), entranced dronescaping (“The Seer”), and scabrous punk-pop (“I Called,” where Hval's bright vocals are countered by gusts of scrabbly guitar). Hval brings a similarly bravura attitude to her singing, her voice an oft-soaring and clarion instrument that oscillates between a delicate murmur and a raw howl in the title track and becomes equally ethereal and angelic in the entrancing “Mephisto in the Water.” Sometimes words are spoken, sometimes yelled, and sometimes sweetly sung—a near-yodel also surfaces during “Is There Anything On Me That Doesn't Speak?” and “The Seer.”

In “Renée Falconetti of Orléans,” Hval ruminates on the mediated image, film and otherwise, while “Give Me That Sound” finds her voice heavily distorted and backed by piercing guitars and primitive drumming. With its sometimes explicit lyrics rooted in mythological detail, gender politics, and surreal imagery (a particularly vivid passage in “Amphibious, Androgynous” includes the observation “You have seaweed between your fingers, lips, and legs”), it's no surprise that Hval is known in her native Norway for being both a musician and a published novelist and media commentator. The words unapologetic and uncompromising come to mind as one immerses oneself in Hval's fierce sound-world.

May 2013