Jenny Hval: “Blood Bitch” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com

“An investigation of blood” is how Jenny Hval described her sixth album, Blood Bitch, in a press release. “It’s an album of vampires, lunar cycles, sticky choruses, and the smell of warm leaves and winter.” This concept is reminiscent of many pro-feminist artists of the modern day, specifically the British songwriter Anohni, who inquired on her 2012 live spoken word track “Future Feminism” – “I’ve been thinking all day about the moon. Like, is it an accident that women menstruate once a month and that the moon comes once a month?” These cycles of blood, the supernatural and the relation thereof are prominent themes of Hval’s new collection of tunes.

Recorded at The Best Studio in Oslo in Hval’s native Norway, and produced by the Norwegian Noise-maker Lasse Marhaug, the follow up to 2015’s Apocalypse, girl is a feast of ambient, trance like electronic music, as well as some worldly rhythms and some musique concrete, but Hval’s amazing craft-work of pop structure keeps the album from venturing too far into the left field. Clocking in at thirty-six minutes, the album covers lots of sonic ground while remaining tight and concise in its lyrical themes. She makes music that sounds like Grimes had a desperate itch to record an album with Björk and Arca (Vulnicura shares many qualities with this record). Spoken word passages (“Untamed Region”) and percussive breathing (“In the Red”) are two of the albums most sonically engaging tracks.

 

While Hval stated that the album is her “most personal”, she also stated it as her “most fictitious”. Blood Bitch is a concept album that concerns not only blood in the sense of the menstruation cycle, but also introduces vampiric characters and themes of horror. “This blood bitch’s tale/It goes a bit like this:/I lose myself in the rituals of bad art, in failure/I want to give up but I can tell/My heartbreak is too sentimental for you”, she sings on the standout “Conceptual Romance”. Hval sounds like an artist who has a unique, abstract way of thinking about transcendence of bodily functions and chemical feelings. She makes it clear in the song’s reoccurring hook, however, that “I’m working on it”. She’s trying to make sense of her natural functions as a woman just like many others are, regardless of their sex.

While these ideas can be related directly back to Hval’s fascination with her own anatomy, she also makes clear in the first seconds of “The Great Undressing” that the album “is about vampires”, and she seems to weave in this idea in tracks like the lead single “Female Vampire” and also in the album’s closer, “Lorna”, where she sings, “What is this desire/This biting/Eating into another person”. In an interview done by The Key leading up to the release of the album, Hval explained that the album was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando, A Biography. “Orlando is a character that lives through several centuries. He starts out being a male growing up. At some point through history, he changes into a she. So it’s a coming of age story that is very fluid, traveling through time and gender.” With Blood Bitch, Jenny Hval has successfully managed to provide not only an insightful piece of music, but also an educational one, in some ways – and she inspires the world to “keep that birth under control”.