Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval


‘Music isn’t normal’ quipped Norwegian songwriter, Jenny Hval just hours ahead of her performance in Manchester’s Soup Kitchen. This poignant statement is certainly true in the case of Hval, yet by her standards, Blood Bitch, her most recent record, is possibly her most ‘normal’ record yet. Despite its themes of vampires and menstruation, her new synth-led direction present in lead singles ‘Conceptual Romance’ and ‘Blood Vampire’ has gained her multiple radio plays and possibly influenced the sheer size of the audience packed into Soup Kitchen’s wonderfully degraded basement.

Dressed like catwoman, Hval stands on stage with two others; a caped man arched over synthesizers and samplers, and a lady clutching flowers to her chest – with Hval, nothing surprises us. ‘Conceptual Romance’ soothes unlike any Hval song, blocking any unwanted views out of sight. It’s a surprisingly tranquil opener that doesn’t prepare us for what’s to come.
The tranquillity is continued by ambient sounds, until Hval unleashes a haunting spoken-word piece. For this her voice could be pulled straight from the vampire movies that inspired the record as her words subvert traditional norms; ‘there’s blood on the bed, didn’t know it was time yet…I dip my finger in it, smells like warm winter, then I feel the need to touch everything, everything in this room, like a dog.”

As if we weren’t lulled from our sense of security enough, Jenny then begins to pant heavily over piercingly discordant keys whilst being hit by flower petals. Things then get weirder when we’re invited to a zombie workout. For this, the other lady on the stage copies moves from a YouTube video, before her and Jenny join in unison for a final workout. The soundtrack to all this is a dance-inspired rework of ‘The Great Undressing,’ which bears little resemblance to the original but works all the same. For anyone who has not seen Jenny before, this may sound a little pretentious but it’s worth noting that Jenny laughs throughout and is more than aware of the strangeness of the evening.

The two women on stage then reveal their swimming costume, as they adorn swimming glass and lean back in their blood smeared blow up pool. They do this for the incredibly catchy ‘Period Piece,’ which is controlled by slow drums and irresistible vocals. After this, the capes go back on for ‘Female Vampire’ and they flail like bats in the night, throwing their arms up and down.

The performance is just over 45 minutes but in such a little time Jenny has packed a huge amount. While the show might be perverse at time, Jenny is happy for people to not understand every little thing that happens and tonight, the songs reign supreme.

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Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.