Published Sep 28, 2016As 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. "Ikea-white walls" and doctor's offices form the backdrop of "Period Piece," while "Untamed Region" captures the singer in a hotel, stuck between young and old, artistry and failure. Her words dwell on isolation, so there's a cathartic thrill when a connection happens on tracks like "Secret Touch."
The musical accompaniment is just as jarring. Spoken word pieces and instrumentals bleed into conventional songs. Hval's knack for left-field pop shines on "Female Vampire," but its synth blares continue through "In the Red" before giving way to a humming, breathing soundscape. The orderly hi-hats of "Period Piece" flow into "The Plague," a collage that sounds like the Knife's Shaking the Habitual mixed with Broadcast's Berberian Sound Studio soundtrack.
Like these transitions, the album constantly confounds. Few tracks work on their own, but together they convey an urge to achieve order through art. Blood Bitch won't reward casual listeners, but it offers plenty to those who want to get a little lost. (Sacred Bones)