Blood’s dark associations prove difficult to pass over, but Jenny Hval notes its role recognizable when disregarding stigma; the catalyst to creativity.
“There must be some art form where I can pour my blood,” sings the Norwegian artist on ‘Period Piece,’ track seven of her latest album, Blood Bitch. Prior to this, Hval’s “investigation” of blood chronicles the ways it ties all people together, despite how they might cringe at the red matter that unites them. And like others in Blood Bitch’s 10 songs, the instrumental arrangements of ‘Period Piece’ prods as much as Hval’s words, surprising listeners, keeping the narrative cohesive throughout.
The arrangements contain tinges of what made recent work by Julia Holter and Beach House draw such acclaim (an emphasis on atmospheric motifs and pool of sounds deployed maybe just once or twice over the album’s course). The string of tracks to open the album — ‘Ritual Awakening,’ ‘Female Vampire’ and ‘In the Red’ — embodies best how this twist in instrumentals couple with Blood Bitch’s lyrical themes.
‘Ritual Awakening’s’ initial section meshes crackling and reverberations until quickly transitioning to a spaced-out arrangement. Here, Hval’s introspection first affects listeners; “It’s so loud / I get so afraid, so I start speaking.” With jangling repetition, ‘Female Vampire’ features chimes, bombastic tones and occasional synths; by the refrain, the words “Here it comes” adds another layer to the rich progression. It’s a track which seems like ten minutes of sounds and ideas come together in under four. A compact tune, though layered like something epic, ‘Female Vampire’ fades to ‘In the Red,’ but that prodding beat carries over.
For all the emphasis on theme and plot, Blood Bitch allows listeners to relate its ideas to themselves due to the abstraction in some snippets. Album standout ‘Conceptual Romance’ underscores Hval’s dedication to relaying the message — but making her work accessible.
Lines like “this landmine of a heart,” “my heartbreak is too sentimental for you” and “rejected by the illusion / It is constant” evoke an emotional response to the concept of searching for truth while in the midst of struggle. Also incorporated in the self-reflection are lyrics pushing ahead the album’s stories and exploration of what’s behind society’s blood stigma.
Blood Bitch’s central message is communicated beautifully; both in the overall arch of the album and with tracks in isolation. However, secondary themes on tracks like ‘Untamed Region’ (“Ikea white walls”) add to the listening experience. It’s as if Hval’s “most fictional and most personal” album doesn’t impress solely due to devotion to message.
Blood Bitch is out now via Sacred Bones Records.