In the press release for her new album, Blood Bitch, Jenny Hval describes the record as “an investigation of blood”. More precisely “the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.”
It was a provocative introduction, yet Hval is an artist whose work is far too complex to be reduced to that. After the spellbinding Apocalypse, girl, Blood Bitch sees her stretching her ideas into even deeper emotional shapes, continuing her exploration of sexuality, gender, language and identity.
“For me it’s hard to say that the album is about anything, because that’s not how I listen to albums,” she explains. “But when I was writing the press release I was after a good paragraph – there’s a lot of blood on the album and I suppose there’s a homage to the hidden link between menstruation and actual horror blood.”
This theme of blood, vampires and lunar cycles emerged as she watched films, a common source of inspiration for her.“I was improvising a lot of lyrics and watching a lot of horror movies from the 70s and that lo-fi horror movie universe found a way into my writing. It’s a love affair with words, and a certain kind of grainy film medium… and bad dialogue.”
“I was improvising a lot of lyrics and watching a lot of horror movies from the 70s and that lo-fi horror movie universe found a way into my writing.”
The result is a futurescape of drone, dark electronics and rich textures – though it was nearly something very different. “When I started writing music after Apocalypse there was a vague plan of doing something acoustic but that didn’t happen. I tried for like half an hour!” she laughs.
Working with producer Lasse Marhaug, who not only produced Apocalypse, girl but has also worked with drone-metal greats Sunn O))), the album started to take shape. It was Lasse who encouraged her to view her music as a layering of sounds that create a dynamic whole. “Lasse relates to sound in an abstract way. That’s a better way to look at it than as individual songs because many times you end up with an illusion that can’t be broken. Looking at the album as a whole and then putting holes in it means you have these bits of reality peaking through. I love those moments.”
And these unique moments are equally a part of her live show. “Me and the one musician I bring with me are always bringing in whatever’s in our own brains. Because we work with this ‘invisible’ set up it’s easy to add new sonic ideas. So even though everyone is filming it and putting it on YouTube there’s still something left that’s only there in the show.”
The Apocalypse tour saw her wearing a velour sweat suit, wig and sitting on a small yoga ball. Will they still be used? “I don’t know. We’ll see. They won’t have the same function.”
“I always try to change. That’s one ofthe reasons that I can’t play at all – because I like to explore change in front of an audience.”
It’s this constant, ceaseless experimentation that makes Hval such an engaging, captivatingly complex creative force. As she simply puts it, “Music is all about changes – whether it’s as simple as a chord change or melody.”