The poststructural feminists are going to have field day with this one. There's already been so much said on Jenny Hval, former alias Rockettothesky, that it requires some self-reflection of adding more unnecessary internet debris. I'll try to make this short and sweet. First off, "Viscera" -- the first effort released under her own name -- scares the shit outta me. Kicking off with a quirky avant-garde-like recitation, it dropkicks you like a welterweight champion of morbid genius. Heavyweights I'm referring to of course of dark siren goddesses and radical poets: Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux, Elisabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, Patti Smith, Laura Nyro, etc. It's no wonder Ms. Hval wrote a Masters' thesis on Kate Bush, probably something as bad-ass as Lacanian readings on voice (think: Mladan Dolar's, "A Voice and Nothing More", MIT Press) or phonocentrism. Just as Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" was inspired by an Emily Brontė novel, Jenny Hval draws on strong literary influences. It takes special brains to not only extrapolate necessary understanding of one's music on paper, but be a decisive act/performance as well. And she certainly is.
An old music critic once told me you can tell everything about a band by reading their lyrics. Most of the time you do it reluctantly, with one-eye squeezed shut -- especially bands where English isn't their first language. It's painful to ingest the gaping vulnerability of text, so it's often treated it as a discardable or excess entity, sidelined by the "real" stuff. But here the music follows the imagery of the words, pieced together like limbs conjoined and changing; developing within itself, evolving, caving in, and even exploding ("Portrait of the young girl as an artist"). Jenny Hval exhibits beautiful harmonic development ("How gentle") but her songs never get so lost to return to a theme ("Blood flight"). It never so alienates it's listener should you understand it, and patience is rewarded abundantly.
- Ann Sung-an Lee