Jenny Hval
Innocence Is Kinky


4.7
superb

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
August 2nd, 2013 | 170 replies


Release Date: 04/19/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If there's one thing I learned from listening to this album, it's that ironic sexism is still sexism.

Innocence is Kinky, Jenny Hval’s second offering for Rune Grammofon, finds the Norwegian artist itching for reinvention once again. She previously displayed similar leanings on 2011’s Viscera, which was a conscious departure from the reluctant pop of To Sing Me Apple Trees and the sibilant, ethereal music of Medea. But it’s not all uncharted territory from here on out – while Viscera saw Hval digging deep within herself to craft six-to-eight minute epics that came together synergically to deliver the album’s central thesis, Innocence instead sees a return to standard song lengths, with most of the record’s cuts not even breaking the four-minute marker. That’s not to say that Hval’s fourth record feels brief though, for its dense lyricism and difficult, often Spartan arrangements do require considerable amounts of patience to crack.

If you just joined us on this tour of Hval/Rockettothesky’s discography, it’s worth mentioning that the cuts on Innocence often feel less like songs than sketches of poetry – think Brian Eno’s recent work with poet Rick Holland and you’d have a rough idea of the format in which pieces like “Oslo Oedipus” and “I Called” present themselves. But while Eno and Holland’s work had a sort of everyday immediacy to it, Hval is a scribe whose multivarious allusions frequently demand a significant degree of literacy, and her deceptively timid vocals belie an intimidating poetic voice. Describing the sound of a Jenny Hval record can also be another beast entirely. Imagine, if you will, the urgency of Zola Jesus’ wrecked-torch narratives, intermixed with the self-cognizance of Grimes’ recent sojourn into cyborg pop plus a dash of w h o k i l l-era tUnE-yArDs’ inobdurate fanaticism, and you’d be pretty close to tapping into the sounds of Innocence is Kinky.

Elsewhere, Hval’s own website gives us some additional insight into the motivation behind her recent revisionist tendencies. In touring Viscera around various clubs and festivals throughout Europe and Australia, she frequently found herself wanting to get more and more aggressive on stage with the material, desiring to play louder each time instead of shushing down and working with polite, acoustic soundscapes. “I wanted to sing louder, channel this energy, sharpen all edges, loosen the structures,” she writes, and this is probably where the inspiration for a song like the title track comes from. On “Innocence is Kinky”, a spindly guitar riff performs dissonant cartwheels around Hval’s vocals, which reach their peak with a desperate, singular plea against sexual depravity: “There has to be more than burning and losing myself!” she begs. It's hard not to sit up and take notice, particularly in light of the ominous manner in which the song’s opening lines names the entire audience as co-conspirators to the crime of voyeurism: “That night, I watched people fucking on my computer/Nobody can see me looking anyway.”

Then there’s “Mephisto in the Water”, which has such a joyful vitality that it wouldn’t seem entirely out of place for the Von Trapp children to perform a cover rendition of it. Here, Hval’s gossamer-tipped vocals brush lightly over an unabashed pastoral paean that seemingly dissolves into thin air after three and a half minutes. It’s a startling about-turn from the bumpy and unforgiving nature of the title track, and the contrast merely serves to underscore the poignancy of the artist’s message. Hval has also noted that Innocence carries the mark of her recent obsessions with the concept of an enforced male position, naming the work of perennial bad boys Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, and a certain Michael Gira as particularly strong influences. It’s probably no small coincidence, then, that there’s a song called “The Seer” on here, with some of its lines – like “The voice is a second flesh/That cannot be seen/This body is not for vision” – probably more than capable of finding a home on a Swans record somewhere. “Renée Falconetti of Orléans” in turn finds Hval attempting to bridge the disconnect between love and blunt, senseless fornication. “It is an act of love,” she tells herself. “He enters you through your body/His voice is an act of love/Like holy water.” But she never once sounds completely convinced.

Given that the bulk of Jenny Hval’s work has typically been about the female form and the manner in which its sexuality is often circumvented in popular culture, Innocence is thematically similar to much of her canon. As before, bodies are frequently painted as disposable utilities, even when sexuality is not necessarily the locus of a given track – “I want to sing like a continuous echo of splitting hymens,” goes one particularly memorable line on “Give Me That Sound”, which in truth spends most of its time symbolizing Hval’s ongoing search for her own voice via a continuum of gritty, delay-soaked reverb. Much like “Give Me That Sound”, Innocence is Kinky is difficult to listen to, and even harder to stomach. But there is great reward in focusing on what happens in this deceptively hushed landscape that Hval has built, because for all its use of soft atmospherics and gentle, eiderdown-laced vocals, the album ultimately betrays the implication of a lifetime of objectification beneath its soothing dulcet tones and restrained palettes. As Hval herself pronounces on “The Seer”: “My body is the end.”



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user ratings (59)
Chart.
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


7026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Imagine, if you will, Zola Jesus’ urgent, wrecked-torch narratives, intermixed with the unerring self-cognizance of Grimes’ recent sojourn into cyborg pop plus a dash of w h o k i l l-era tUnE-yArDs’ fanaticism

ehhh this feels really off to me. nice to finally see a review for this though.


Gyromania
August 2nd 2013


15941 Comments


crazy verbose

Digging: Lantlos - .neon

Cygnatti
August 2nd 2013


21353 Comments


dat summary rulez

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

ehhh this feels really off to me. nice to finally see a review for this though.


Hmm. I get that it's long but I've read it a few times and it seems to work for me?

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


10271 Comments


Hahahaha oh Jesus lawd I am famous

Irving
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


7311 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Cheers brother ;)

kingsoby1
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


4950 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i think it's great irving u r teh bomb

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


10271 Comments


Agreed, this review is really great.

Lucid
Contributing Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


7026 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

No I mean the comparisons are off. I would never mention Grimes or tuneyards in the context of Hval. I understand it's a means to an end, but with that combo you don't (imo) get "pretty close to tapping into the sounds of Innocence is Kinky."

TrueBlood
August 2nd 2013


1388 Comments


Loved the first LP, can't wait to check this. I hope it's good.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


6094 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The summary is nauseous and the very kind of attitude this album is directly confronting. If you're going to place it in context of a critique of the album, for Hval's sake, at least attempt to address it.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


10493 Comments


best summary

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

robin
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

“Innocence may be kinky, but dat cover art sho ain’t!” – Jacob Royal

this is a fucking stupid thing to say even as a joke wrt the points this album is making. seriously.

robin
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

UNHAPPY : (

EaglesBecomeVultures
August 2nd 2013


5253 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn robin a 5?

Digging: Iceage - Plowing Into the Field of Love

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


10493 Comments


it's a joke that doesn't even make sense - it's precisely in the vein of inane jacob royal soundoffs that are literally all over the place here and wasn't trying to make any point

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


6094 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

it's a joke that doesn't even make sense - it's precisely in the vein of inane jacob royal soundoffs that are literally all over the place here and wasn't trying to make any point

ironic sexism is still sexism, and the context-less inside joke by an anonymous person on a forum seems especially brash when considering this album and its themes. this album's incisiveness is still only barely parsed in this write-up and leading into it with this joke (one that does make sense; how does it not?) seems tactless when this review is going to be aggregated as something professional.

klap
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


10493 Comments


anonymous? his name is right there. and i didn't get how that was sexist, but then again i am pretty thickheaded when it comes to parsing out gender politics

and irving's professionalism is questionable using that as a summary but there have been worse ones (lol sputnik ~staff~)

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 2nd 2013


6094 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

A name by a quote does not an identity make. My issue with the summary is how it does not tie in to the actual write-up, though it is as base an example of the issues Hval covers as Irving could have pulled (and Irving sort of gets at: "Hval's work has typically been about the female form and its sexuality," which, okay.. but how? and what is it saying?). It just smacks of carelessness, going for the simple laugh as Sputnikers are wont to do. I am intentionally overreacting because this album deserves better, deeper observations. There is a whole song about the male-dominated music scene attempting to dissect her work and the perceptions they bring into it ("Death of the Author").

Me, by your eye? Me, by your hand? Me, by the manosphere? Me, in your private time? Me, by angle? Me, when no one is watching you? Me, in your very own right? Me, by your very own boner?

robin
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

i have so many problems with discussing hval on sputnik oh my goodness



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