26 May 2016

Jenny Hval / Female Vampire (single review)

Jenny Hval is a Scandinavian artist who creates quirky, baffling, and challenging pop music that notoriously challenges notions of female sexuality and explores other feminist themes with transgressive and often shocking lyrics. She doesn't do things by halves. Her album Apocalypse, girl was so acclaimed last year, and the similarly splendid album Innocence Is Kinky proceeded that (I guess you get the point already), and well, since then she's obviously not stood still. She's just announced a plan for her second album in as many years, and done so with this pretty brilliant single.

It's called Female Vampire, and it's laying the groundwork for an album that will be called Blood Bitch, a loose concept album that will use the conceit of a female vampire as a means of rationalising and singing about periods. Here's a pretty lengthy quote from Jenny on the album, and well, I guess it's just cause to get excited about what will be one of the most ambitious and personal albums of the year:

"Blood Bitch is an investigation of blood. Blood that is shed naturally. The purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.

Blood Bitch is also a fictitious story, fed by characters and images from horror and exploitation films of the '70s. With that language, rather than smart, modern social commentary, I found I could tell a different story about myself and my own time: a poetic diary of modern transience and transcendence. 

There is a character in this story that is a vampire Orlando, traveling through time and space. But there is also a story here of a 35-year old artist stuck in a touring loop, and wearing a black wig. She is always up at night, jet lagged, playing late night shows - and by day she is quietly resting over an Arp Odyssey synthesizer while a black van drives her around Europe and America. 

So this is my most fictional and most personal album. It’s also the first album where I’ve started reconnecting with the goth and metal scene I started out playing in many years ago, by remembering the drony qualities of Norwegian Black Metal. It’s an album of vampires, lunar cycles, sticky choruses, and the smell of warm leaves and winter."

Musically, the single Female Vampire combines ethereal vocals with a frantic with an on-edge synth part that escalates and undulates creating a really unnerving atmosphere. Basically, it's laying the groundwork for Blood Bitch to be a really incredible record, and when it drops - 30th September for those wanting to know - you can be sure there'll be something well worth delving into.

Words: Calum Cashin