I stumbled across Jenny Hval’s highly abstract dreamlike rock last year and her brand of angelic singing and spacey monologues really took me by surprise. “The Long Sleep” moves slightly away from the non-standard format of her last album “Blood Bitch” and pushes her towards a more melodic sound and a slightly brighter sound palette. It’s still crammed with cute avant-garde moments and weird mashups though and so it’s more accessible to new listeners, whilst showcasing the kind of weirdness Hval possesses.
“Spells” is a superb track. The airy drum loops and breathy synths let Jenny’s delicate voice to take centre stage when the saxophone isn’t doing a new romantics solo in the wrong song (yet it fits completely). Jenny layers her voice so it sounds both ethereal and alien and has some good gymnastics on show too including a great vocal collage of ooh’s in the middle as a breakdown. It’s never fully in tune but that’s Jenny’s way. Where that gave power in “Spells”, that rough around the edges delicateness makes “The Dreamer Has Everyone in Her Dream” utterly fragile. It’s a simple piano and vocal for the first half and the piano is filtered like an old cheap vintage one. It’s like we’re being lulled into the dream and then when he slip into it the second half goes psychedelic as Jenny repeats ‘this is the long sleep’ and the entire song’s riff starts to twist and bend through frequency phasers. If it was in a 1970’s sci-fi movie you could imagine the screen waving from side to side as actors stumble around confused, but as its audio only, it’s far more effective. It demonstrates to great effect how Jenny Hval can take you on a musical journey across thoughts, sounds, feelings and genres. Nowhere is audio storytelling more prominent than in the 10-minute title track that follows. It is an electronic drone of almost a single note and slowly other instruments seep in that change the makeup of that journey. It drifts from a drone to a raj as guiro sticks make jungle percussive beats and metallic synths create galactic slides. It’s all so subtle and it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s one of those tracks you could zone completely out to in a meditative trance. It merges into the closing monologue of questions and thoughts of “I want to tell you something” which ultimately sends a thank you and warm hug of love to the listener. It’s an interesting way to close the EP off and if you treat the EP as a mini guided meditation of sorts, it could be a powerful way to close out too.
“The Long Sleep” is a fascinating push at the boundaries of audio storytelling. It’s a brighter, more loving tone is a great tonic after Blood Bitch and as an EP, it’s generous yet tightly woven in its narrative and what it wants to say. Jenny Hval is quite unlike anyone else I’ve listened to for some time – and I love that when I hear her music I feel like I’m discovering something entirely new. For that – and for making a connection – she earns the utmost respect from me.
Recommended track: Spells
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