Jenny Hval
Innocence Is Kinky


4.7
superb

Review

by Irving EMERITUS
August 2nd, 2013 | 158 replies


Release Date: 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 (111)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
luci
August 2nd 2013


12844 Comments


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


37002 Comments


crazy verbose

Cygnatti
August 2nd 2013


36017 Comments


dat summary rulez

Irving
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


7496 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?

Yuli
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


10767 Comments


Hahahaha oh Jesus lawd I am famous

Irving
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


7496 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Cheers brother ;)

kingsoby1
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


4970 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i think it's great irving u r teh bomb

Yuli
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


10767 Comments


Agreed, this review is really great.

luci
August 2nd 2013


12844 Comments


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.

klap
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


12408 Comments


best summary

robin
August 2nd 2013


4596 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
August 2nd 2013


4596 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0



EaglesBecomeVultures
August 2nd 2013


5562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn robin a 5?

klap
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


12408 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

klap
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


12408 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~)

robin
August 2nd 2013


4596 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0



klap
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


12408 Comments


i guess, but it's not like that's a pen name. and there have literally been countless summaries that do not tie into the actual write up, professional or not. i honestly feel like this wouldn't even be an issue for literally any other album. you want irving to go deeper - that's an issue with his writing, and an issue with your perception of this album.

honestly, irving even reviewing this feels weird to me as it isn't in what i would think to be his wheelhouse. anyways, i think (and what sputnik should generally be about) we should be constructively criticizing the (thin) writing, rather than blasting off about a stupid quote that is just representative of sputnik in general and damn why do i even take this seriously ugh



klap
Emeritus
August 2nd 2013


12408 Comments


honestly the fact that people get upset with others discussing ~music~ is frustrating to me. like maybe you can have an actual discussion about it instead of throwing your hands up

robin
August 2nd 2013


4596 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

rudy i talked to jacob about his soundoff and he basically admitted he hadn't heard the album so i'm annoyed at us using him as a jumping off point that conflates with the artist's intentions, yeah



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