Jenny Hval: The Practice of Love – ambient therapy

(Sacred Bones)

Devotees of the determinedly left-field Norwegian Jenny Hval may be gently thrown by her seventh album. Her last, Blood Bitch, tackled themes of vampires and menstruation with her customary tools of unsettling semi-spoken vocals and spare, folk-boned pop. The Practice of Love, by comparison, makes radical concessions to melody, rhythm and pleasure, a deep exploration of emotion with a new-agey, therapeutic feel. The title track, in which fellow musicians Laura Jean and Vivian Wang cross-talk over soft-glow, amniotic synths, brings to mind the Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds, an early 90s buzz carried over into the breakbeats and poetic intimacies of Lions, and the trancey Ashes to Ashes, with its hands-to-the-sky synths and big splashy beats. Six Red Cannas, a tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe, and the choral bliss and handclaps of Ordinary would fit snugly on a Pure Moods compilation. The smoothness of Hval’s musical vehicle, this time around, allows her ideas to slip in softly, almost subliminally: humanity as a virus, technology’s role in romance, bereavement, panic attacks. It’s an eerie sort of euphoria, but no less of a rush for it.

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