A confessional, intimate, emotion-spanning work; Jenny Hval‘s new album The Practice Of Love explores the spectrum of love and relationships through swirling synths and revealing lyrics. It’s a marked departure from the darkness of her 2016 album Blood Bitch, but equally as complex and memorable.
Loosely inspired by Valie Export’s 1985 film of the same name, Hval admits she’s “mostly avoided love as a topic” in her work because she views the intimacy that comes with it as “a lifelong journey”. However, it’s her desire to communicate this truth that’s fueled the creation of her new record.
Opening track ‘Lions’ is brought to life by friend & collaborator Vivian Wang’s measured voice. She guides listeners, instructing them to look across a forest landscape for a holy entity, as Hval’s ethereal vocals overlap her. The duality of the voices form separate parts of the same story, which is simultaneously off-putting and exciting.
A shimmering, textured, surreal take on creativity, second track ‘High Alice’ centers around a re-imagined version of the eponymous character from Alice In Wonderland. Here, Hval plays with the clichés surrounding what it means to be a woman who makes art. Her gentle vocals, looped beats and narrative perspective demonstrate her ability to captivate listeners with her intricate musical storytelling.
‘Accident’ (featuring Laura Jean) is a conversation between two women about birth, life, and an indifference to Motherhood. The oddly poetic line “she found stretch-mark cream in and air b&b” adds a lightness to an otherwise heavy topic. The album’s title track ‘The Practice of Love’ features the voices of Hval, Laura Jean & Vivian Wang, discussing the many strands that make up the web of love. It begs multiple listens so that each voice can be appreciated, but the overlapping of multiple different sentiments makes for a captivating listen. Self love, romantic love, platonic love – all are covered and contemplated on this piece of Hval’s puzzle of intimacy.
‘Ashes To Ashes’ is a strangely uplifting electronic affair. Hval blends gentle vocals, startling lyrics and deceptively catchy beats to communicate issues of morality. Following track ‘Thumbsucker’ (featuring Félicia Atkinson) is a pensive, curious listen that sees Hval “withdrawing word by word, back in to the rabbit hole” for safety. It’s not long before she reemerges with penultimate track ‘Six Red Cannas’ (featuring all three of her collaborators), with its catchy beats inspired by 90s trance music.
Hval closes The Practice Of Love with the humbly titled track ‘Ordinary’. It’s a charming celebration of the desire to share universal feelings, which by default makes us all very ordinary. Except, Hval’s “ordinary” isn’t quite so. Even when she strives for it, her wonderful “otherness” sets her apart from other “ordinary” artists who delve in to the same themes. That is truly worth celebrating, and practicing love for.
Jenny Hval’s new album The Practice Of Love will be released via Sacred Bones on 13th September. Pre-order your copy here.