Jenny Hval

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

Rockettothesky: To Sing You Apple Trees (2006) , 5.5/10
Rockettothesky: Medea (2008) , 6/10
Viscera (2011), 7.5/10
Innocence Is Kinky (2013), 6.5/10
Meshes of Voice (2014), 5/10

Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval started out disguised under the moniker Rockettothesky with the verbose and rudimentary To Sing You Apple Trees (Trust Me, 2006), containing the rocking Barrie for Billy Mackenzie (like Alanis Morissette covering the Cranberries), the piano elegy On Cherry Tree Song, and good demonstrations of her ability to transition smoothly from spoken-word to bluesy/yodeling styles (I Stepped On A Toothbrush for only voice and guitar). Rockettothesky's second album Medea (Trust Me, 2008), produced by Supersilent's Helge "Deathprod" Sten, marked significant progress in terms of arrangements and structures, resulting in a more eclectic panorama: evocative pop (Song of Pearl), exotic synth-pop (The Dead Dead Waterlily Thing) and a unique form of acid folktronica (the lengthy, sparse, spectral, spaced-out Chorus for voice and electronic soundscape), with a peak of pathos in the crystal hymn of Grizzly Man, that harks back to catacombs and convents.

If those first albums were mainly meant as a display for her virtuoso melismatic vocals, Viscera (Rune Grammofon, 2011), arranged with Havard Volden (guitars and psaltery) and Kyrre Laastad (percussion and keyboards), upped the ante dramatically. After the etheral Engines In The City, the album delivers seven mid-length meditations/confessions a` la Jane Siberry. This time the music is a calculated surgical factor: a suspenseful, harrowing soundscape for the theatrical recitation of Blood Flight, delicate strumming for the ecstantic convent-like chanting of How Gentle, an almost psychedelic tide embraces the dejected, languid lament of Golden Locks, eerie background noise transpires from the silence of the whispered a-cappella eight-minute soliloquy This Is A Thirst. It is not only atmosphere: the childish narration of Portrait Of The Young Girl As An Artist uses a monotonous clockwork rhythm that suddenly soars into a grunge-y riff (and its coda disappears in a vortex of cosmic noise); echoes of ancient Irish elegies transpire beneath the calm surface of Milk Of Marrow, and the haunting Black Morning/ Viscera harks back to even older traditions.

The arrangements on Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon, 2013) are a bit too sophisticated, pushing the feathery Innocence Is Kinky into soul-jazz ballad territory before it explodes into garage-rock hysteria. The textures of many songs are thinner and sparser than ever. Nonetheless, the effect can be mesmerizing, angelically introverted in Mephisto In The Water, tensely hypnotic in Amphibious Androgynous, almost raga-psychedelic in The Seer, and cosmically abstract in Oslo Oedipus. And there is room for "rocking" moments like the uptempo I Called, disfigured by a distorted synth, and the careening I Got No Strings, a display of her melismatic style. Unfortunately, Hval indulges in theatrical declamation (Renee Falconetti Of Orleans, Is There Anything On Me That Doesn't Speak?) that is not adequately supported by the music. The songs are short, having abandoned both the elaborate soundscapes and the repetitive structures of Viscera.

Meshes of Voice (2014) documents a 2009 collaboration with fellow Norwegian singer/songwriter Susanna Wallumrod, ostensibly inspired by Maya Deren's surrealist film "Meshes Of The Afternoon" (1943). Very few of the duets work (Milk Pleasures) and very few of the arrangements make any difference (the shroud of dissonance in Black Lake).

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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