Jenny Hval is releasing her very good new The Long Sleep EP today. We’ve only heard one song from it, “Spells,” in advance, though we did name it one of the best songs of the week back when it came out. Today, to ring in the full EP’s release, Hval is sharing a … More »
The Long Sleep
[Sacred Bones; 2018]
There’s something strikingly pensive about the infinity-interrogating spirit shown on both The Long Sleep and Jenny Hval’s preceding release (as Lost Girls with Håvard Volden), Feeling. Her meditations are not precious (nor above preciousness) and frequently bemused about embarrassing, natural garden-variety human mess. Even at her most resplendently soaring-searching, the artist clings to sweaty oblong mantras that flirt with a purgative abject disgrace. She may sometimes passingly resemble a psychotropically compromised self-help guru, but Hval is always in there somewhere laughing with you by sharp little degrees you didn’t know (or had forgotten) were at your disposal.
While listening to these two releases (and to some extent, with the wisty mist turned down, 2016’s Blood Bitch), one can almost picture Hval, for all her disassociative flair, doing stock, montagey normal things like carefully assessing kindergarten drawings, gliding around the circle of kids, irradiated in shivering warmth. In other words, there is occasionally something mildly mundane and domestic about her strangeness, harrowing as it can be. It’s a curious wrinkle, but the artist’s dominating humor is actually more often intrepid or exultant. The whooping at the six-minute mark of Feeling’s “Accept” is close to epitomizing what it feels like when Hval’s music properly sends you. There is an arresting sensation of vast release and midnight blooms. Of untold resilience. You feel it, and you wanna yawp (like Ethan Hawpe).
From riveted at the poetry reading to discombobulated “Celtic Swing” contentment, these small packages manage to weave you into their fabric just as well as Hval’s longer albums. She continues to wield a mighty voice, a mousy voice, a mincing voice. A voice that bracingly bends into an object instrument, heroically rejecting language and the regimented reigning in of one’s primal vitality as a whole. She sounds at home wherever she wanders, and with The Long Sleep’s tell-me-you-aren’t-loving-this infectious centerpiece (“Spells”), this territory now includes a balmy saunter through Mclachland (“Conceptual Romance” came close, but this is closer). Not only is this song a barely-noticeable six minutes long, but it also sophisticatedly brow-furrows Hval’s signature unsettledness into its breezy bounce. “We will not be awake for long” is repeated in bubblegum gospel (pleading vamps included) fashion, but the singer’s conviction (and pristine pitch) is unmistakable and palpably stirring throughout.
In Hval and Volden’s discussion of their musical curation for each other’s funerals, one can get a glimpse of where “Spells” is coming from. It’s that exhilarated reflexive whisper (in-casket acoustics), while you ease your flushed cheek with a cool, steely eye on the finish line. It’s a tender, personal, broken-in sort of death chant. Yet, if there could ever be a resolved way to look at mass human exodus (a notion that renders the very practice of “looking” and “listening” hilariously meager), this song seems to keen for purchase on that impossibly tumultuous mental current. It boasts the ethereal charm of a supermarket siren song, but it’s ultimately closer to the high-walled mercy of fate, besting better angels since nature was nature. Tailing this keening on opposite ends is the “lost” notion of “exercising everything by tapping into nothing.” Interestingly, this line plays interchangeably to solitude, co-dependency and the tentative-to-total regard aimed at the slivery reaches of blinking hallway window lights (audience). Even the mulching drone that takes up much of the second half is flexing this tactile, jawset humming, faraway-fever intimacy. The lyrical self-admonishing solipsism then resembling attentive laments, then rote dispatches, then lines in the sand that you retrace again and again with mindless determination.
Hval parts with a postscript that directly questions, muses, asserts, and finally kisses you on your silly head (“Thank you/ I love you”). It’s a funny feeling to wind up with, (and slightly reminiscent of the ending of this sad old story), but its formality manages to take a dismayingly fleeting listen make it feel momentous. In addition to being another altogether strong effort from the artist, this is both a subtle expanding on and exciting departure from the gorgeous drift of the Lost Girls project. Exciting new terrain aside, there’ll hopefully be more Jenny Hval music to come soon. These 23 minutes do indeed leave one wanting more (not unlike the latest Grouper and Elysia Crampton releases). But even if The Long Sleep is (deep down or hiding in plain sight) a resigned, muted, end-of-the-line Kool-Aid party, the bug juice is delectable enough to call one back from the great unknown for seconds and so on.
Gah…sorry, y’all; I must have…dozed off there…
But, turns out, she’s already announcing the May 25 release of a conceptually-minded (and positively dreeeamy, I’m sure) new EP on Sacred Bones called The Long Sleep??? Holy shit; I’ve got to get my act together. Pass the coffee pot and that press release, will ya?
Okay let’s seee-ee-eeee here: the new EP was recorded “with longtime collaborator Håvard Volden and producer Lasse Marhaug,” alongside a supporting cast of the region’s most somnambulant jazz cats — Kyrre Laastad on percussion, Anja Lauvdal on piano, Espen Reinertsen on saxophone, and Eivind Lønning on trumpet. It also finds Hval “embracing an instinctive, even subconscious, approach to creating meaning” and foregrounding “the act of composition itself, letting the melodies and structures reveal the other elements of the songs.” Here’s a statement from Hval:
What am I doing here? Am I communicating? Am I promoting?
I just want to tell you something.
There should be something I could tell you, there should be something I could do to reach you directly, but there is nothing useful in the way we define “you”, or “me”. There should be something I could tell you, there should be something I could say directly without lyrics and melody.
Maybe that’s what I’m trying here. Something else than lyrics or melody. It’s not the words. It’s not in the rhythm. It’s not in the streaming. It’s not in the “message”. It’s not in the product. It’s not in the algorithms. It’s not something you decided. It’s not something they decided for you.
I want to tell you something. I just want to say: Thank you. I love you.
Whoa. Well THAT sure woke me up! Okay — I’m in. Where do I pre-order this thing? (Oh okay; right over here). And where do I listen to the first single, “Spells?” Oh okay; right down here:
The Long Sleep’s short tracklist:
02. The Dreamer Is Everyone In Her Dream
03. The Long Sleep
04. I Want To Tell You Something
Norwegian experimental artist Jenny Hval has a pretty good track record. Her 2015 album Apocalypse, girl explored bodies and human sexuality and gender dynamics, and we named it one of the best albums of 2015. Her 2016 album Blood Bitch explored the intersection of menstruation, vampire lore, and ’70s exploitation films, and we … More »
Today’s fun fact: people still read books in Norway! Do you know how I know this? Because lifelong Norwegian (and globally-acclaimed singer-songwriter) Jenny Hval has announced a new novel! It’s called Paradise Rot and it’s hitting store shelves October 2 via the good graces of Penguin Random House and the heartwarming radicals over at Verso. Congrats on that multi-hyphenate status, Jenny!
Billed as “a lyrical and uncompromising debut novel,” the book “presents a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire,” which is easily my favorite genre of prose. SPOILER WARNING!! Here’s a plot synopsis to tide you over until you have to brace yourself against that biting autumn breeze:
Jo is in a strange new country for university, and having a more peculiar time than most. A house with no walls, a roommate with no boundaries, and a home that seems ever more alive. Jo’s sensitivity, and all her senses, become increasingly heightened and fraught, as the lines between bodies and plants, and dreaming and wakefulness, blur and mesh.
I know, I know; you’re just dying to know the page length, ISBN, and physical dimensions of the paperback. Well, I have good news and better news: the good news is that you can find all that information over at the Penguin Random House site; the better news is that you can pre-order Paradise Rot over there, too! Finally, Paradise Lost gets the gritty modern reboot we all know it deserves!
Norwegian experimental artist Jenny Hval has released a number of great albums over the years, most recently 2016’s Blood Bitch, and earlier this month she put out a collaborative EP with Håvard Volden under the name Lost Girls. 2018 will also find Hval turning toward a different medium: literature. As More »
Houston has had a year. In August, the world watched as Hurricane Harvey submerged the city in an incomprehensible amount of water, and as freeways turned into gushing rivers, the country turned to memories of Katrina and the vast devastation it caused. And a month after Harvey hit, the Houston Astros won their first World … More »
In this space in past years, I’ve usually written about which music-video directors had the best years. It’s a variation of the auteur theory, as visionaries like Nabil and Hiro Murai have used artists as vehicles for their ideas and approaches. This year, though, it feels like the artists themselves who are driving things, and … More »
NOTE: Each day this week, we will share a new 10-track mix, which together represent 50 of our favorite songs from 2017. Now, grab your sweatband and leggings: today’s theme is “GYM,” mixed by Corrigan B!
I have a reputation for being ruthlessly optimistic, which is why I typically hate this kind of shit: yearly ritual lamentations on things like racist soap commercials and weird presidential takedowns of professional football players; in retrospectives like this, it seems like we always group our collective grievances in odd numbers, truncating our listing of injustices for brevity and politeness. This approach — of remembering and marking a year like we’re scratching off days on a culturally misappropriated doom calendar — has always struck me as insincere and offensive, but then it ends, and it’s weird looking back at what we went through and what got us through. Another arbitrary amount of time has passed, and yet it really does feel heavy. Death is real. Words fail. Mask on. Fuck it, mask off! So we pick a song and close our eyes and turn it up.
And what were we blaring this year that warped time’s mundane and oppressive rhythms? What mutterings slowed us down when we were spinning out of control? What sounds launched us through uncertainty and landed us somewhere a little more familiar, if even for just a few minutes? There was no high canon guiding our self-care other than what we needed, and aren’t we all a little less particular about what kind of noise lifts us up when we’re fumbling through our first yoga class at the GYM, screaming obscenities into the glowing rectangular VOID, remembering love and loss on the brisk face of the CLIFF, shuffling home through the ALLEY at night, driving away from it all in the COUPE? We don’t have EVERYTHING listed here, but for us, a lot of these tracks were EVERYTHING this year.
So, in that spirit of dissolving hierarchies of taste, this list is not ranked; instead, here are five themed mixes of our Favorite Songs of 2017. How you interact with them is your choice: you can nod along, you can face the noise stoically, you can dance, you can laugh at some of our choices, and most importantly, no matter what anybody tells you, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. However you remember 2017, just know that you’re not alone, and don’t let a crotchety optimist like me tell you to smile through it all. Just pick a song and close your eyes and turn it up. You’ll know what to do when you hear it.
PART 1: “GYM” mixed by Corrigan B
Given its title, it was unsurprising that Joe’s “Tail Lift” was concerned with momentum. Like the piece of machinery it’s named after, “Tail Lift” was always pushing things upwards. Over the course of its nearly six-minute runtime, the track shook and shimmied, balancing chirps, whistles, chimes, and bells over an insistent, doubled beat that was constantly falling over and into itself. These propulsive movements were adorned, interrupted, and joined along the way by fellow sonic travelers drawn to the upbeat procession — children’s voices, glassy keys, miniature melodies — suffusing the track with a caffeinated, off-kilter mien. Dalliances with the weird were frequent here; cartoonish pops, drums, and squeaks bursting into view as the track underwent one of several mini-implosions, its parts falling to the ground before being picked up again, their order jumbled, soldered-together edges overflowing with molten metal. “Tail Lift” was the sonic embodiment of this aleatory backyard readymade: equal parts humorous, conceptual, and functional; archly constructed and strangely satisfying.
Feels like a track might be the wrong kind of unit for looking at something by Lil B. Like, look at scales of magnitudes, not at atoms. But on the other hand, everything in the universe is literally in everything else. And I mean that — all of the BasedWorld is in everything Lil B does, and when Black Ken, in its nostalgic Bay Area references, seemed like it was doing something out of reverence for “ancient history,” it turns out that those things were sucked into Lil B’s ambit too. He’s not referring to them; they refer to him from now on: “Wasup JoJo” — it’s a NODE, the busiest in the switchover.
“To the Moon and Back”
Fever Ray’s Karin Dreijer is so notorious for her enigmatic identity and arresting visuals that we often forget just how gifted a songwriter she is. “Hey, remember me/ I’ve been busy working like crazy,” she reminded us on “To the Moon and Back,” her first song of new music since 2009. A bouncy synth-pop jam more reminiscent of the playful Deep Cuts-era Knife material than Dreijer’s previous output under the Fever Ray alias, the song was crafted from a series of expertly layered synth lines that built to a orgasmic release, a tantalizing taste of what we had been missing.
I don’t get into aerobics, but half of Nídia Minaj’s kuduro beats could function as Zumba fodder. If you threw on “Puro Tarraxo” though, you were plain fucked. There was the semblance of slowed-down reggaeton in there, but it was too slow to follow properly; besides, every rhythmic element was either tripping on its time signatures or moshing with the others. It was the sound of getting down on the yoga mat for about 20 seconds before realizing you were waaay too out of shape for this, but holy shit everyone else is doing it so you’ve gotta keep going gotta keep going gotta keep going gotta keep *faints*
Club Chai, a collective whose mission is to “[centre] diasporic narratives, women and trans artists, DJs, and producers,” is important. Club Chai Vol. 1, their first major release, put the Oakland-based label on the map, and co-founder FOOZOOL’s track “AZAT” was a diamond among its many gems. Effortlessly mixing an opera-backing sample with a gritty guitar lead, the track exemplified what Club Chai Vol. 1 is all about: dance tracks full of “how the hell did they think of that” moments. We’re already chomping on our nails in anticipation for volume 2.
Kelly Lee Owens
“Anxi.” (ft. Jenny Hval)
Have you ever wondered where those joggers go? You know, the ones you see every day on a routine? Oh, sure, they go in a loop: From start to end, a simple route with clearly defined points of direction. No deviation. No direction. But are they going somewhere? Do they even see anything on their path, observe the world around them? Are they even there? I think not. Joggers mechanize. They aren’t going anywhere. They’re fulfilling maintenance that has no bearing, no effect in the long term. They’ll break down eventually. What meaning will they have then?
“I Want U”
[International Deejay Gigolo]
Taken from Zukunftsmusik (the title of which is German for “music of the future”), DJ Hell’s “I Want U” is a song about fucking. Specifically, as is obvious from the track’s associated artwork lifted from legendary homoerotic fetish artist Touko Laaksonen (a.k.a. Tom of Finland), it’s about huge, strong men fucking, but the instrumental worked for anyone with genitals. This face-blast of industrial techno pumped harder than Louis C.K. in front of an aspiring female comic, but unlike Louis, this track won’t make you feel disgusting inside after the experience. “I Want U” was an affirmation, an ode to the bears among us. It fed all kinds of muscles.
Drunk as shit. Tumble, starfish, curl. In bed, not in love. Not in love, not in love. Say it without opening Instagram. Too late. Illuminated by neon at the dive. Rose light. Obsessed with it. And you, fuck. Remember yelling along to our favorite songs all summer while driving the hell out of town? Remember glittering my eyelids before the party? Remember wearing backless velvet? I tried getting over it. Promised I would. Hated it. Shit, we were radiant. Magic. I forget why it ended. The crush, the rush. The energy. I would do anything. Text me? Please?
“Time to Live”
He’s one part Bowie, one part nonsense-babbling toddler; he has arguably released more #1 smash hits than anyone in history, but in a dearly departed genre. Here, Ariel Pink returned to the cassette-left-on-the-dashboard production style of his early work, fording two and a half minutes of wind tunnels and monsters before his Trump-era call to arms gained full force. There was a layer of absurdist comedy to his divinations and absolutist pronouncements, but he committed 110% — as we all must. He turned into Princess Ariel for the watery coda and headed home with another W.
I’m still not sure what a POBBLE is, but I think I want to eat one. The hyperactive Tomagatchi/marshmallow hybrid was offensively PC Music and also possibly the end to human despair. Accompanied by a video that must have been a nightmare to animate, the collaboration between A. G. Cook and Always & Forever Computer Entertainment had enough juice to fry a battery. Where can I buy a POBBLE? Are they like pets? Should I water it? Whatever it is, I’m sure my dentist advises against it.
Come back tomorrow for the “VOID” mix.
These days, whenever all the big-name American festivals start to announce their lineups for the year, there’s inevitably a certain, noticeable same-ness. It’s a consequence of those festivals becoming more popular than at their inception, with festival-going becoming an overall more mainstream activity in America; it’s a consequence of the music industry’s contractions and … More »