Jenny Hval displayed an intriguing take on pop music since the beginning of her career, under the Rockettothesky moniker. The folk leanings of Viscera gave way to the experimental tendencies of Innocence Is Kinky, prepared the ground for her more ambitious works. On Apocalypse, Girl, Hval embraced an art rock motif, resulting in a mesmerizing work of forward thinking music. Her next album, Blood Bitch further dived into this well of ideas, seeing this vision of experimental rock, art pop, electronic music and goth aesthetics come together perfectly.
Hval returns now with The Long Sleep, offering a slight deviation from her previous work. Her work always featured an elusive quality and a dreamlike sense, and this is the focus of her new EP. The opening track “Spells” features such a moment of otherworldly sense, with the surrounding synths giving way to a jazzy sax tune before the post-punk grooves are introduced. It is the more straightforward track in the album, but from that point onwards Hval takes a minimalistic route.
“The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dream” features a stripped-down setting. Starting off with just the piano and Hval’s stunning vocal delivery, it offers a hypnotic rendition. The track slowly builds up and new elements are added, with the percussion and the synths making it more energetic towards the end, but this minimalist point of view remains. And it also washes over the title track, which takes on an ambient electronic form.
In the 10-minute long “The Long Sleep” Hval allows the soundscapes to expand on their own time, diving deeper into this subconscious state. Field recordings are introduced alongside the electronic machinations, creating a sense of sonic dissonance, while the processed vocal cuts make this kaleidoscope of sounds come together. The evolution of the track is steady, and when the percussion is brought in the aura changes towards a tribal-esque motif, a more introverted and hazy take of “The Plague” from Blood Bitch. The added sax brings a further layer of ambiance, surrounding the percussion, while Hval’s vocals retain their calming form.
Any music that Jenny Hval has produced addressed the listener on a personal level. There always seems to be an inherent honesty about her music and the concept behind her works, and that continues to be the case with The Long Sleep. This is further highlighted in the outro of the album “I Want to Tell You Something”, where she offers a heartfelt closer. And it ties in with what occurs in The Long Sleep, with Hval displaying a different take on her style, deconstructing certain notions and taking a reflective vantage point towards her music.