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Jenny Hval - The Practice of Love (Album Review)

Tuesday, 17 September 2019 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Lasse Marhaug

Jenny Hval is feeling reflective. Her previous offering, ‘Blood Bitch’ was a pointedly vexing record about menstruation and vampirism that won the Phonofile Nordic Music Prize—essentially the Mercury Music Prize for Scandinavia—in 2017.

Her new offering, ‘The Practice of Love’ is a concept album about love, inspired in part by the Austrian multi-disciplinary artist Valie Export’s 1985 crime-drama film of the same name. It melds avant-garde soundscapes and shimmering electronica with great skill and a high degree of artistic freedom.

The eight track record opens with the excellent Lions (feat. Vivian Wang). The song is introduced through a scratchy digital snare loop while gorgeous, hypnotic poetry floats above: “Look at these trees / Look at this grass / Look at those clouds / Look at them now.” 

From there it grows into a kind of trippy synth fantasia—somewhere between Massive Attack and Saint Etienne. It’s a superb entrance and one that introduces the central theme in a way that is unusual, ethereal and strangely unromantic.

The high quality doesn’t really let up throughout the album. High Alice floats elegantly, while Ashes to Ashes is more lo-fi, dwelling and captivating. There is also the excellent spoken word title track, featuring Laura Jean and the aforementioned Wang. This is one of the more challenging numbers, with the arthouse imaginings verging on indulgent. And yet it feels conceptually robust, layering several monologues over each other and keeping a less melodic composition tremendously listenable.

Seven albums in, Hval has established herself as one of the best musicians operating in the electro-arthouse scene. However, if there is a criticism of ‘The Practice of Love’, it is that none of the tracks are absolute bangers that grab you by the guts and don’t let go. That might be to do with her creative practice; Hval’s music is often intensely freeform and so eschews the safety of more formulaic composition. 

And yet it is hard to deny that similarly talented music makers—Susanne Sundfør, Robyn and Bat for Lashes, for example—are more convincing songwriters who release completely unforgettable music. That said, ‘The Practice of Love’ remains an excellent album from an artist who keeps improving and challenging both audiences and herself. 

Jenny Hval Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun September 29 2019 - LONDON Milton Court Concert Hall

Click here to compare & buy Jenny Hval Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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