Apocalypse, girl is Jenny Hval’s fourth studio album under her own name, released via Sacred Bones on June 9th. It features production from Swans’ percussionist Thor Harris, among others, and their influence is evident (Hval has previously supported the band).
Opener ‘Kingsize’ combines spoken word with eerie shimmering synths, and at first, sounds like it’s going to be full of thinly veiled, Eartha Kitt-esque euphemisms. It soon descends, however, into unbridled smuttiness, ending up as something quite grotesque. Refreshingly, she’s also got a clear political agenda that she is able to carry across the rest of the album: ‘feminism’s over / socialism’s over / I can consume what I want now’, she sarcastically drawls on ‘That Battle is Over’. The tension of the first couple of tracks is such that when ‘That Battle is Over’ comes around with its 90s chillout vibe, the relief is tangible.
Over clattering organic sound collages, Hval’s transatlantic utterances are disconcertingly intimate – her audible swallowing makes the lyrics (plenty of dicks, fucks and cunts interspersed throughout) all the more startling. Hval has expert control over the depth and body of her voice – at times it’s intentionally thin and reedy and at others thick and full, reaching Natacha Atlas heights of warbling whilst remaining iridescent in tone. She switches fluidly between whispering, singing and talking – intricately weaving in and out of different levels of clarity – building up layers of sound and removing them again all at once to leave something simple. By the last few moments of final track ‘Holy Land’, the fading synths give way to a naked drumbeat accompanied solely by panting.
As a creative writer and performance artist as well as a musician, Hval is keen to focus our attention on the voice and lyrics, and the album as a whole is very stripped back and notably slow-paced. It’s intellectual without being oppressively so, and whilst it’s not an easy album to listen to, the challenge makes the enjoyment of it all the more rewarding.
Buy Apocalypse, Girl here: