ALBUM: Jenny Hval – ‘The Practice Of Love’

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.

Kate Crudgington

Track Of The Day: Jenny Hval – ‘Ashes To Ashes’

Sacred Bones signee Jenny Hval has shared her new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’ and it’s an uplifting electronic affair. The track is taken from her upcoming album, The Practice of Love, which is set for release on 13th September.

The Norwegian multidisciplinary artist blends gentle vocals, startling lyrics, and deceptively catchy beats to communicate issues of morality on her new record. It sits in stark contrast to her 2016 album Blood Bitch, and features the voices of collaborators Vivian Wang, Laura Jean Englert, and Félicia Atkinson.

Speaking about her new album and the themes it encompasses, Hval explains: “This all sounds very clichéd, like a standard greeting card expression, but for me love, and the practice of love, has been deeply tied to the feeling of otherness. Love as a theme in art has been the domain of the canonized, big artists, and I have always seen myself as a minor character, a voice that speaks of other things. But in the last few years I have wanted to take a closer look at the practice of otherness, this fragile performance, and how it can express love, intimacy, empathy and desire. I have wanted to ask bigger, wider, kind of idiotic questions like: What is our job as a member of the human race? Do we have to accept this job, and if we don’t, does the pressure to be normal ever stop?”

She may be humble about the impact of her voice in the wider industry, but we believe in the power of Jenny Hval’s vision and we’re excited to join her on her journey through love and otherness. Listen to ‘Ashes To Ashes’ below and follow Jenny Hval on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order Jenny Hval’s upcoming album The Practice of Love here.

Photo credit: Lasse Marhaug

Kate Crudgington

Track Of The Day: SPELLLING – ‘Under The Sun’

SPELLLING (aka Chrystia Cabral) has shared her new single ‘Under The Sun’ – the second offering from her forthcoming album Mazy Fly, due for release on 22nd February via Sacred Bones. The track is a six minute blend of dance-inducing beats and smooth vocals, which SPELLLING says form a “cosmic prayer for good fortune”.

Chrystia began experimenting with music production in 2015 in an effort to carry on the creative legacy of a lost loved one. She released her first LP Pantheon of Me, in September 2017 via Bandcamp. Drawing heavily from messages in her dreams, the result was a “divine soul music; with a unique vision, inhabiting a world of its own”.

On her second record Mazy Fly, and new single ‘Under The Sun’, SPELLLING has developed her dreamy soundscape further: celebrating the “invisible energies that come together over time to create something radically new, like the birth of a star”. Check out the new track below and follow SPELLLING on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order SPELLING’s new album Mazy Fly via Sacred Bones here.

Photo credit: Catalina Xavlena

Kate Crudgington

LIVE: The Soft Moon (w/ HIDE) – Scala, 28.11.18

Discomfort and insecurity found it’s niche on Scala’s stage on Wednesday night, as HIDE and The Soft Moon both flourished under the venue’s smoke and strobe lights. With a sound and a stage set-up reminiscent of the likes of Nine Inch Nails, The Cure & Fever Ray, both bands performed an intense and manic set, fueled by the attention of their captivated crowd.

Opening duo HIDE were a force to be reckoned with. Together, Seth Sher &
Heather Gabel create clear, vital, smothering waves of industrial electronic sound. Gabel’s warped but powerful vocals were accompanied by hair flicks and body spasms, which made for compelling viewing. She took barely a breath between songs, but the audience applauded anyway, as she stylishly staggered through the smoke and strobes with perilous purpose. Tracks like ‘Close Your Eyes’ – taken from HIDE’s debut album Castration Anxiety – echoed around the venue with angst-ridden intensity. Despite knowing only a handful of tracks, we were hooked from start to finish.

Headliner The Soft Moon (aka Luis Vasquez) delivered his most powerful set to date in the capital this year. His clear vocals, and the raw energy of his live band kept the set flowing seamlessly from track to track. Highlights included ‘Criminal’, the title track of his latest album, as well ‘Like A Father’ – the sound of which we can’t get out of our heads. Whilst his performance supporting My Bloody Valentine at Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival earlier this year was compelling, The Soft Moon’s music is best appreciated in an intimate venue like Scala. The accompanying light show made it all the more fascinating; amidst flashes, spotlights, and strobes the crowd happily jumped around to ‘Burn’ and ‘Choke’, and Vasquez fed off their fire.

Despite the complex and often tortured nature of The Soft Moon’s songs, there was no self-flagellation in his delivery on stage. Vasquez performed tracks from his earlier records with the same energy as his latest work, and his confident, energetic performance removed the sense of insecurity that permeates his music. Whether he was face-to-face with his microphone, riffing on his guitar, or pounding the living hell out of a trash can – Vasquez looked entirely at home in his electronic world.

Together, HIDE and The Soft Moon gave primal, urgent, gripping sets on Wednesday night, and we’re eagerly anticipating their return to the UK in 2019.

Follow HIDE and The Soft Moon on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: Marion Costentin

Kate Crudgington

Track Of The Day: SPELLLING – ‘Haunted Water’

Sacred Bones signee SPELLLING has shared her new single, the aptly named ‘Haunted Water’ alongside the news she’ll be releasing her new album Mazy Fly on 22nd February in 2019. The track is a spell-binding listen with a sinister context; recounting memories of colonial violence that haunt the historical slave ship routes of the Middle Passage.

SPELLLING (aka Chrystia Cabral) began experimenting with music production in 2015 in an effort to continue the creative legacy of a lost loved one, and released her first record Pantheon of Me, in September 2017 via Bandcamp. Inspired by the messages in her dreams, her sound breaches the void between clarity and obscurity – and latest single ‘Haunted Water’ is a perfect example of this.

Despite the track’s painful but important context, SPELLLING’s soft vocals give the song a softer quality, amidst slow, intense synths and steady beats. She embraces the negative side of human nature, and explores it by blending R&B sensibilities with intriguing electronics.  Listen to ‘Haunted Water’ below and follow SPELLLING on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order your copy of Mazy Fly here.

Photo credit: Catalina Xavlena

Kate Crudgington

LIVE: Zola Jesus – Omeara, London 05.11.18

Zola Jesus stunned her sold out crowd at Omeara on Tuesday night as she appeared shrouded in red, delivering her flawless operatic vocals. Her performance embodied the promise she made during second song ‘Soak’ – “You should know I would never let you down” – and her rendition of the track made our gothic hearts bleed.

She took to the stage after Ah! Kosmos, who performed a stunning one-woman-show in an equally stunning sequin blazer. The Istanbul-born artist gave a masterclass in how to perform electronic music solo, and was the perfect warm up for Zola Jesus’ eager crowd.

Whilst on stage, the Sacred Bones signee said she was “chuffed” to be in “Blighty” and was happy to talk between songs about TV show Nathan Barley and the shortcomings of British Airways (who had lost her guitarist’s luggage earlier that day). Her set was laced with penetrating vocals that rang out across her hypnotised audience, and included an emotive dedication to her Uncle who recently survived a suicide attempt.

The blend of industrial and classical elements in Zola Jesus’ music translated well live, and she was accompanied by a violinist and guitarist for the duration of her set. Her tortured but tentative lyrics on ‘Skin’ and ‘Exhumed’ as well as the hypnotic, off-kilter, bouncing synths on ‘Bound’ provided fans with an eclectic mix of old and new material, and an opportunity for the performer to remove her red cloak, and break the fourth wall towards the close of her set.

Her lyrical lamentations about disconnection are made all the more powerful by her altruistic voice. Recorded, her vocals are striking enough – but to hear them live is confirmation that Zola Jesus truly has a divine set of lungs. If you weren’t there to hear her at Omeara, you missed out on a mesmerising performance from this warped and wonderful artist. A definite live highlight of 2018.

Follow Zola Jesus on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington

Track Of The Day: SPELLLING – ‘Hard To Please’

Brand new Sacred Bones signee SPELLLING (aka Tia Cabral) has shared her latest single ‘Hard To Please’ and unlike its namesake: it’s a cool electronic balm for the ears. The track is accompanied by an intriguing video (produced by Laneya Billingsley aka Billie0cean) which sets out to “animate the fantasies of the heart high on desire”.

‘Hard To Please’ is taken from SPELLLING’s forthcoming 7” of the same name, coupled with ‘My Other Voice’ (a cover of Sparks’ 1979 symphonic disco track), and is set for release on August 3rd. Speaking of the track, SPELLLING says: “‘Hard to Please’ and ‘My Other Voice’ pair together to reflect on bittersweet passions of an obsessive romance; ‘Hard to Please’ swells through the excitement and pain of yearning to please a lover who cannot be satisfied with “eyes of winter” but a promising “heart of spring”.

SPELLLING’s dream-like visions and explorations of divine emotions are sure to please the ears of the passionate and the lovesick. Watch the video for ‘Hard To Please’ below and follow SPELLLING on Facebook for more updates.

Pre-order SPELLLING’s Hard To Please 7” here.

Kate Crudgington