Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jenny Hval - The Long Sleep Review

Up until Blood Bitch, Jenny Hval was on an ascension upwards. Like her contemporaries Julia Holter or U.S. Girls, Hval's form took new, unfounded steps with each iteration. With Blood Bitch, the Swedish-born musician took solace in the gothic beauty of her percolating dispensary of innards, choosing to craft Art Pop standards with minimal deviation. Like Apocalypse, girl and the slew of austere projects beforehand, Hval always came equip with a concept to match her empyrean vocals and daring instrumentation. That much becomes readily apparent on The Long Sleep, an assorted four-track ensemble that takes the form of our fluffy, illogical dream state.

In a sense, The Long Sleep's compact 23 minutes represents the ideal summation of Hval's wide range of talents. 'Spells' reflects her Art Pop divinity, 'The Dreamer Is Everyone In Her Dream' her conceptual integrity, 'The Long Sleep' her insidious Drone, 'I Want To Tell You Something' her abstract Spoken Word. Together they form a lush and lucid playground, one that conforms traditional nighttime cliches (like counting sheep) with absurdist kinks (like becoming a disco ball). Hval's crafty language shuffling with dreams acting as the excuse may have been an idea kickstarted by her work with Kelly Lee Owens on the transcendental and ethereal 'Anxi.' Here it blossoms into a vibrant tree with its diverging roots composing the base. With the strict adherence to the concept, The Long Sleep never reaches past the breathless heights of its opening song and lead single 'Spells' though. One of 2018's best, the spellbinding standout borrows from a plethora of Pop sub-genres, including Dream, Progressive, Art, and Sophisti-Pop. Structural richness comes as a result of quixotic horns, hypnotic drums, and mesmerizing synths. Yet nothing competes with Hval's stunning presence on the chorus, a masterstroke of pushing pleasure principles. It's here that 'Spells' jauntily moves past 'That Battle Is Over,' 'Conceptual Romance,' and 'Heaven' as Hval's best work.

From there, The Long Sleep powers itself through the steadfast night with Hval acting as the usher. Split between two halves, 'The Dreamer' puts to bed 'Spells'' melodious whimsy while introducing 'The Long Sleep's' erratic REM cycles. Basically an elaborate interlude, 'The Dreamer' takes that definition and runs with it, conjoining atmospheres that would typically be separated by a silent page flip. A present to those who've experienced, and longed for, Hval's experimental side, 'The Long Sleep' exists as a constantly evolving Ambient piece. Much like her other 10-minute endeavor, 'Holy Land,' one never feels comfortable ignoring what'll come next. Minute fluctuations constantly occur and never repeat, as naturalistic ambience akin to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's work spreads itself thin, bare, and translucent. Despite being virtually vocal-less, 'The Long Sleep' never bores. The 10-minute edifice is what Ambient and Drone should aspire to be. The former in the amplification of conceptual ideas, the latter in its total abstinence from stagnation. After drifting entirely off to the sunken place, Hval returns unabashedly to comfort you with evocative depictions of what her art isn't. Then, as discreetly as it materialized, The Long Sleep evaporates with Hval granting us a goodnight kiss and a harmless "I love you."

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