#14 Jenny Hval - Viscera
The album's core song, Bloodflight, reads so much like a poem, and illustrates so well what Hval is up to on Viscera, that it is worth quoting it at length:
"I carefully rearranged my senses
so they could have a conversation.
Taught them to switch places;
from each pore in my skin grew shimmering eyes!
And fingerprints filled the eye sockets.
From the ears grew two tongues,
and I sang for people passing a strange song.
Told them stories without moving my lips
(Mouth half-open, still)
They assumed the words came from themselves;
these unfamiliar thoughts"
She sings the opening words to this segment very deliberately and carefully, in keeping with their meaning, letting us know that there will be no faffing around here, that she is about to embark on an extremely thorough journey. And how thorough it is. Nothing is left out, from golden showers of piss, to the clitoris as a blind sphinx, to the golden hair on her head, to a (slightly mocking) contemplation of the penis from the perspective of a toothed vagina. In tandem with all this body travel this there are themes of actual travel too (by train, for example), so she is equating her inner and outer journeying in a way that validates both - which is authentic mystic thinking in anybody's book.
The music that Hval creates for her body poetry follows the words around. The words are master and the music is subject, which reminds me of some of Joanna Newsom's songs, and also a bit of The Manic Street Preachers' Holy Bible when Richie Edwards was vomiting out all that mad poetry. But, for all that, it is beautiful music, informed by folk and possibly black metal (Bloodflight comes on like an orchestral black metal piece), airy and tentative when Hval is gathering her thoughts, and rampant once she finds her stride.
Viscera is a strange and exquisite album that sounds like the cold North. By it's very nature it can be an alienating listen for a man, but that might draw a contemplative pause (it did for me) about how women might feel listening to so much music that has been made about The Dick down the years (the sort of thing Nicki Minaj cleverly skewers here). So for me, it is alien and sometimes discomforting, but beautiful, and the most fascinating folk album I heard in 2011.
MP3: Jenny Hval-Bloodflight