Norwegian singer Jenny Hval is a collected master of sound. Her avant-garde approach to music-making has made her previous five albums impressive, and her latest record The Practice of Love is truly exceptional. Hval’s lyrics brilliantly explore concepts of intimacy and desire, for others and for herself, over breakbeats and synthesizers. It’s modern, it’s mature and it’s delicately unique.
The album opens with “Lions” where panned percussive hits direct the rhythm, which eventually transcends into song. Hval’s spacious vocals lead into a breakbeat, drums reminiscent of ’90s hip-hop. A powerful introduction to her sound, “High Alice” then continues with these alternative hip-hop beats. Synths enter the pockets to create a holistic groundwork for the song, and Hval’s vocals are sensual yet unassuming when she murmurs, “The ocean where I wrote my first poem with my hand on my skin between my thighs.” In fact, Hval’s voice is outstanding throughout the record. It’s full of sultry femininity and warmth and really blends well into her ambient electroproduction.
There is an undeniable honesty found within the structuring and message of each song that really propels the album forward. “Accident” a song that took Hval ten years to write, opens with airy arpeggiated synths that are full of nostalgia and character. The song changes form as heavy-hitting club kicks come in later. Hval then delves deeper into exploring the relationships between voice, presence, creation of life, death and art in “The Practice of Love.” She vulnerably says, “I hate love, the word love comes in the way of love.” She speaks of her current status, a woman in her 30s without a child and “part of this human ecosystem/ where the main characters have kids/ I am a supporting character.” It’s intimate and she’s in conversation so casually about intense topics that it almost becomes trippy, movie-like.
In songs “Ashes to Ashes” and “Six Red Cannas” we can hear a bit of Grimes-esque production, with warping basslines and synthesizers. Both songs are happy, energetic and original, especially when clashing snares come in like an ’80s wave tune. “Thumbsucker” switches up with a saxophone establishing the moody tune, where Hval’s voice, full of character, delivers lines like, “I was a thumbsucker, what am I now?” “Ordinary” finishes with a soft ambient synthesizer. Eventually, all sonic elements meet together to reach a melodic progression attractive to the ear, closing out the project beautifully and heartwarmingly.
You can trust in Hval and her sound. Her steady approach to music is assuring yet extremely intricate and mature, and The Practice of Love is one of her best sonic departures yet. She plunges into her own problems, and issues that she has found within others, to create a sound encapturing it all so delicately.