[25 September 2011]
PopMatters PopLocal Features Editor
Putting the “freak” back in freak-folk and taking the “folk” right about out of it, Jenny Hval’s Viscera is perfectly at home on Norwegian experimental label Rune Grammofon. Hval sings in a keening voice about her body, her sexuality and her feelings, all of which are embodied simultaneously in the fragile, picked strings and spooky backup vocals that provide the album’s ambience. Certain moments on Viscera are so weird and confessional that the music feels like performance art without the performance, as on opening track “Engines in the City” when Hval croons, “I arrived in town / With an electric toothbrush / Pressed against my clitoris”. These are the first words on the album. Despite her determined eccentricity, Hval has a genuine ear for climactic arrangements (no pun intended); “Golden Locks” and “Portrait of the Young Girl as an Artist” both build to surprisingly lush catharses with devices as different as electronic echo and orchestral strings. But between loudness and quiet, Hval prefers the latter, setting up a truly reflective if questionably profound portrait of her innermost thoughts.