Think big, girl, like a king, think kingsize. Jenny Hval's new record opens with a quote from the Danish poet Mette Moestrup, and continues towards the abyss. Apocalypse, girl is a hallucinatory narrative that exists somewhere between fiction and reality, a post-op fever dream, a colourful timelapse of death and rebirth, close-ups of impossible bodies — all told through the language of transgressive pop music.
When Norwegian noise legend Lasse Marhaug interviewed Jenny Hval for his fanzine in early 2014, they started talking about movies, and the conversation was so interesting that she asked him to produce her next record. It turned out that talking about film was a great jumping off point for album production. Hval's songs slowly expanded from solo computer loops and vocal edits to contributions from bandmates Håvard Volden and Kyrre Laastad, before finally exploding into collaborations with Øystein Moen (Jaga Jazzist/Puma), Thor Harris (Swans), improv cellist Okkyung Lee and harpist Rhodri Davis. All of these musicians have two things in common: they are fierce players with a great ear for intimacy, and they hear music in the closing of a suitcase as much as in a beautiful melody.
And so Apocalypse, girl is a very intimate, very visual beast. It dreams of an old science fiction movie where gospel choir girls are punks and run the world with auto-erotic impulses. It's a gentle hum from a doomsday cult, a soft desire for collective devotion, an ode to the close-up and magnified, unruly desires.
Jenny Hval has developed her own take on intimate sound since the release of her debut album in 2006. Her work, which includes 2013's critically celebrated Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon), has gradually incorporated books, sound installations and collaborations with poets and visual artists. For Hval, language is central, always torn between the vulnerable, the explosive and total humiliation.
Main support comes from Elle Mary & The Bad Men. Drawn to the communicative and bonding qualities of ‘folk’ but explorative beyond its stylistic connotations; enough of a pack member to want a band yet also keen to imbue a sense of solitude through her music, Elle Mary is an artist who operates best when balancing conflicting instincts. It’s what lies beneath the subtle tension that slightly tugs at the heart of her and The Bad Men’s acoustically-webbed slowcore minimalism.