Flashes of experimental brilliance
Composing a comprehensive and cohesive piece of music is a surprisingly difficult task. Were it so easy, there wouldn’t be such a thing as music reviews, merely preference guides that point people towards things they might like. But as we’ve seen through countless solo ventures from talented band members, even the most skillful artists can struggle to put together something brilliant. Lost Girls suffers from this affliction exactly on Menneskekollektivet, the latest record from Jenny Hval and Håvard Volden (collectively known as Lost Girls). Despite its occasionally incomplete nature, there’s a world of fun to be had on the record, just don’t expect it to shift your perception of music.
If people enter this album expecting a genre-defining work of experimental music, they’ll be sorely disappointed, but that expectation is solely on the individual. Once expectations have been shed away, Menneskekollektivet is a work of art that flashes with brilliance occasionally but is more than enjoyable for the rest of its at least somewhat fruitful journey.
Take, for instance, the opening track “Menneskekollektivet,” a strange, spoken track with cool, quiet synths crafting a bed on which the words can lie. Interestingly, much of the lyrical content discusses the power of sound, and the sound of the synth is indeed both powerful and memorable. At the same time, it is one of the weaker tracks on the record, and is quickly supplanted by its two successors, “Losing Something” and “Carried by Invisible Bodies.” Both of these tracks twist Scandanavian pop into something unrecognizable and fascinating. The end of “Losing Something” is overtly ‘80s inspired, as is the whole of “Carried by Invisible Bodies,” which lends an edge of fun and carefree indulgence to a record that could be seen as dour upon first glance.
The final two tracks flit between brilliance and banality, often exuding elements of both. “Love, Lovers” has the most compelling drum section of the record, but the spoken word lyrics occasionally distract from the powerful, engaging instrumentals. “Real Life” pulls listeners fully back into the fold with its surf-inspired guitars and propulsive drum loops. The lyrics are sung, which helps them flow better between the instrumentals, and they fully become one with the music. Once that fusion occurs, there’s little keeping people from fully dissolving into the track.
While Menneskekollektivet is not always revolutionary, it’s unfair to expect that of any record. It seems as though Hval and Volden had wonderful fun while making this record, and that joyous creative process has unlocked some gems that people can be confident will influence the future output of both artists. Until that time, people are left with flashes of brilliance, and that’s more than enough.