Throughout her fifteen-year musical career, Jenny Hval has firmly established herself as one of music’s great minds. Through her six solo studio albums, Hval makes every output not just a form of entertainment but an experience. On some occasions, they are psychological or metaphysical explorations (e.g., Innocence Is Kinky), and other times they are concept pieces that are more akin to an act of theater than a music composition (2016’s outstanding Blood Bitch). For her first solo EP, The Long Sleep, marries the two into one captivating little record.
The Long Sleep is post-modern, avant-garde pop at its finest. It’s an experience that belongs in a secluded room in the basement of Tasmania’s famed MONA. Like a great artist, Hval eases listeners into her existential world by first welcoming them with beauty, grace, and wonderment with “Spells”. From her soft vocals to the sultry production that includes a soothing saxophone and a piano intro, the opener is a spellbinding introduction. While musically it is Hval’s most accessible track, her genius lies in her lyrics. The song is one part a goodbye to an ex-partner, as she expresses, “We will not be awake for long. We’ll meet in the smallest great unknown.” It’s another part an observation of misogamy and desensitization of the world.
You are lost exercising everything by tapping into nothing.”
Hval then slowly pulls back the curtains to reveal some of her pop experimentalism with “The Dreamier Is Everyone in Her Dream”. Building on the opener, fluttering piano and Hval’s alluring vocals give way to looping beats. This is just the entry point to the Norwegian’s rabbit hole, which arrives in the ten-plus minute, “The Long Sleep”. The song is the meeting of a NASA documentary with a Guggenheim installation – stargazing through the prism of an computerized music box.
On the 81-second finale, “I Want to Tell You Something”, Hval becomes HAL 9000. Her voice turns robotic, mechanically wishing to tell us something. Trying to explain to us that we are not in control. But controls us? Emotions, external forces, information, computers. As the song ends, Hval throws a curve ball, as her artificial intelligence character thanks us for giving her the gift of love. This is an ending that only a true artist could write.
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