Release Date: Sep 30, 2016
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock
The thing about a vampire is that she must be invited inside. A witch, for example, is powerful, but works in absence, using obscure, oblique languages. But a vampire moves in ways we all understand: puncturing, creating space and a hollow where none existed before, redefining solidity as something contingent, not necessary. And at the moment she bites, she creates flow, change, transformation: she writes a new need in you, one that resembles hers.
Odd, innit. Even now, in spite of all our feminist advances, menstruation remains unclean, unholy, and downright disgusting. If the subject must be broached in public, women do so in code. Even Jenny Hval, an artist that ruminates on the female body, employs euphemism to describe her blood-soaked fifth album.
Blood - it flows through us all and yet there has long been a taboo around it, especially when it is shed naturally. Back in March 2015, Instagram twice-deleted a photograph uploaded by Rupi Kaur which depicted a fully-clothed woman lying on a bed, her sheets and clothing stained with menstrual blood. It was deemed to be against the community guidelines, despite the fact they didn’t mention anything of the sort.
When the feminist artist Judy Chicago showed her painting Red Flag in 1971, she set the precedent for a subject of art that now has a rich lineage: menstrual blood. Red Flag was a photolithograph that closely depicted a woman removing a used tampon from her vagina. At the time, moon-cycles were so hushed and taboo that Chicago said many people had no idea what they were seeing.
Review Summary: A thing of beautyOne glance at the album cover and a hint at the concept of blood-thirsty vampires, and one could understandably jump to the conclusion that Blood Bitch is a lot more jarring and pretentious than it really is. That’s not to say it isn’t a gritty and even odd listening experience – intense panting sounds rattle the nerves on ‘In the Red’ and demented screams escape from the heart of ‘The Plague’ – but somehow Jenny Hval manages to create a thing of beauty amongst the madness. Even surrounded by haunting synths and detailed electronics, Jenny Hval’s vocal performance on Blood Bitch always seductively floats above all the hussle ‘n bussle around her.
“What’s this album about, Jenny?”“It’s about vampires”. The bloodlust on Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch is not necessarily literal. The world of bloodsuckers does not necessarily end with the last vampire. We are all bloodsuckers in a sense, attacking one’s subjectivity and giving it the name of “failure”, a word that circulates through this records veins.
“What’s this album about, Jenny?” asks a voice midway through this short but highly intriguing record from Norwegian pop experimentalist Jenny Hval. “It’s about vampires,” she replies, then hurriedly adds: “Well, it’s about more things than that.” Indeed it is. Menstruation, death and uncontained desire are also among the preoccupations of the album, Hval’s fourth under her own name.
Part way through Blood Bitch someone asks Jenny Hval "What's this album about?" She answers: "Vampires... and more things." It's a perfect description of the Norwegian's slant on songwriting. Hval is a pursuer of the sonically extraordinary; an adventurer of jarring soundscapes..
Leave it to Jenny Hval to make an album that taps into the full symbolic power of blood: Her voice and music have a piercing, penetrating quality that suggests a knife, or in this case, fangs. Her fourth album under her own name, Blood Bitch -- a title that calls to mind a red-soaked Carrie -- uses vampire and menstrual imagery to express different kinds of hunger and purging in scary, sexy, raw, and sophisticated ways. "The Great Undressing" is all of these at once, a confession of creative and emotional need that compares capitalism to unrequited love in a stream-of-consciousness gush.
As her sixth solo album begins, Norway's Jenny Hval admits she's afraid, gripping a phone as if it will ward off spirits as synthesizers churn behind her. It's a discreet turn from someone who once sang about rubbing a clitoris with a toothbrush, and if it catches listeners off guard, they should get used to the feeling. Disorientation fuels Blood Bitch, and this illusiveness evokes separation and desire in a provocative, emotionally adept way.Hval's older lyrics hewed to a prose style, but Blood Bitch's text is fragmentary and emphasizes transitory spaces.
Mixing together strangely twisted fairytales and sordid folk-tales gone awry with insatiable vampires, jet-lagged goths, and menstruation, Jenny Hval’s ‘Blood Bitch’ isn’t just a concept record; it’s a universe swirling with surreal ideas. From the heavy, uncomfortable gasps for oxygen that propel the virtually structureless ‘Into the Red’ to the menacingly calm reassurances of ‘Period Piece’ - “don’t be afraid it’s only blood” - Hval’s latest is a complex, disarming listen that delves into new, boundary-pushing territory with the enthusiasm of an overzealous Pokemon Go player exploring new corners of the neighbourhood. Ever the experimenter, the Norwegian avant-garde enthusiast - as per - combines all manner of artistic influences for ‘Blood Bitch’.
Blood flows freely on Blood Bitch, a carefully composed collage album with a pronounced focus on body horror. Steeped in a dense darkness punctuated by sporadic passages of psychedelically tinged euphoria, Jenny Hval’s fourth solo effort maintains her tradition of thematically structured music that’s at once effusive and oblique, split between soft textures and hard edges. The sound here moves from post-gothic synth-pop to arpeggiated darkwave to atmospheric minimalism, cultivating a cultic, faux-tacky aesthetic that’s more measured than it might initially seem.
Released only a year after career highlight Apocalypse, Girl, Norwegian experimentalist Jenny Hval’s latest album shows her eschewing sonic grandness to retreat into a battle with herself. Blood Bitch has a more fearful tone than its predecessor. This time out, Hval’s ambient experiments are influenced by the black metal of her home country, and industrial noise artists like labelmate Pharmakon.
Ever since Dracula sailed to Whitby in the 1890s, vampires have inspired a lot of bad art; from drippy Robert Pattinson franchises to countless ropey goth ballads. She may have once sang in the Norwegian metal band Shellyz Raven, but Jenny Hval’s gothic past lies long behind her thanks to a solo career that’s drawn rightful comparisons to such trailblazing geniuses as Björk, Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono and even Sylvia Plath. Nevertheless, Hval’s interest in vampires remains undead and her latest mini-opus is inspired by the pale-skinned neck-nibblers.
For something so necessary to human life, blood inspires contradictory feelings. It’s the sign of injury, a color shifting from blue to red, as it pools on the surface of the skin. In film, it’s the gaudy glory of slasher flicks or the deep-prune color of power transitioning from one vampire to a future vampire. In women, it’s the product of life collapsing into death, a literal object of what could have been.
“What’s this album about, Jenny?” asks a voice about halfway through this, the Norwegian singer Jenny Hval‘s fourth solo record (sixth if you include the two she released under the moniker Rockettothesky). Well, where do you start, should really be the answer. Hval has always dealt with unconventional topics, and Blood Bitch is no exception.
Jenny Hval makes pop music. Jenny Hval makes experimental music. Jenny Hval makes difficult music. These are some of the ways in which we attempt to explain the music of the ever-inventive and fascinating Norwegian artist. Ways to try and avoid the grey areas, to have things explained and nicely ….
Sometimes you need to talk about it. Around the dinner table I explain to some friends how despondent I feel after a month of attempting to decipher the lyrics of Jenny Hval’s Blood Bitch, like some sort of flagellant scholar. “The paratextual stuff says it’s an album about a vampire,” I say. “So why would she invite me to see it as a literary exercise, and then refuse to make it decipherable? Why does she demand my full attention, and then not reward me for it? Why doesn’t it make any sense?” Everyone shifts their weight around.
Jenny Hval — Blood Bitch (Sacred Bones)Blood Bitch is about vampires, Jenny Hval says. She even has an audio sample at the beginning of the track “The Great Undressing” where an interviewer questions her, “What’s the new album about, Jenny?” then laughs at how “basic” the idea of vampires is as Hval tries to explain that it’s more complicated than that. The first word Hval sings over that sample is “capitalism,” to prove her point.
Conceptual albums are a rarity these days. The closest music gets to literature, they try to depict a very specific reality or fantasy, even sometimes a mood. They not only offer a story — they must also possess an interesting way of telling it. After all, music is not about lecturing the listener.