Jenny Hval is an Oslo-based musician, composer and writer. Multidisciplinary and transgressive are words often employed to describe her art, but Jenny Hval's polyphonic artistry is in fact seamlessly interwoven between musical, literary, visual and performative modes of expression. She has released several solo albums and novels, including 2018's Paradise Rot and 2020's Girls Against God, both published via Verso Books.
Hval's new album, Classic Objects, is her first on 4AD.
Classic Objects is a map of places: past places, like the old empty Melbourne pubs Hval's band used to play in; public places Hval missed throughout lockdown; imagined, future places, and impossible places where dreams, hallucinations, death and art can take you. It is interested in combining heavenly things and plain things.
Classic Objects is Hval's version of a pop album. Every song has a verse and a chorus. There are interchangeable moments of complexity, interesting melodies throughout, and a feeling of elevation and clarity in the choruses. Heba Kadry mixed it to sound as though it's played through "a stereo in a mysterious room."
"In 2020, like everyone else, I was just a private person," says Hval. "No artists were allowed to perform. I was reduced to 'just me.'" As a result, Hval questioned what "just me" could mean. Was it the version that never got away from her hometown? Was it the idea that there is an obvious truth behind a work of art? Is art nothing but a fancy, difficult construct, and one that is not really necessary?
As an exercise, Hval wrote straightforward stories about life, investigating the stripped-down "just me" concept. She had been "just me" before, too, when at 24, while living in Australia, she was diagnosed with celiac disease and could no longer begin her music career in the way she had foreseen. "Although I would not say I have a disability, just an invisible complication, this revealed to me the impossible expectations of physical ableness from the music industry, or any industry relying upon a precarious workforce," says Hval. "It revealed to me how little the human experience and its diversity is valued in music, which in turn revealed that it's not really a very sustainable or even relevant form of expression."
Classic Objects, however, is not about these things. But when Hval started writing stories that eventually became this record, the pandemic hit and she remembered these specific times in her life, these phases of feeling completely stripped of value. Hval elaborates: "This made me want to write simple stories. My problem was that I found that the music component in the writing process made the words stray from their path and even jump into the absurd. I think it is just bound to happen when there is music involved. After all, a song isn't just words, it has a melody, and the reason we have melodies is to step into the dark and jump off cliffs."
- Vinyl LP
- Standard Jacket
- Printed Inner Sleeve
- Year of Love
- American Coffee
- Classic Objects
- Cemetery of Splendour
- Year of Sky
- The Revolution Will Not Be Owned