So, it turns out, one of 2016’s strongest albums is a conceptual meditation on menstruation, courtesy of incisive, uncompromising Norwegian artist, Jenny Hval.
Landing one year on from her widely celebrated Apocalypse, Girl album, the utterly immersive Blood Bitch pursues her previous album’s themes of gender identity politics and sociopolitical constructs to more personally focussed ends that both deal with and upend the stigma surrounding periods in a manner bound to resonate with listeners in starkly differing ways, as any great album should.
Co-produced with Scando-noise maven, Lasse Marhaug, Blood Bitch finds Jenny exchanging the woozy, dream-like sensuality of her last LP for a finer spectrum of feels taking in explicitly darker, nerve-pinching electronic tones that sit in uneasy ambiguity with her vocals, which range from heady, hyaline and cirrus like, to hushed, clear and purposeful, always with a coolness that conveys and underlines her message with unnerving elegance and alacrity.
From her Ballardian levels of descriptive grain and the music which mirrors it in Ritual Awakening, thru the deftly metaphorical Female Vampire and discomfiting panic of In The Red, Jenny firmly twists perceptions of the subject matter, unexpectedly incorporating elements of Adam Curtis’ reflecting on Oh Dearism - the postmodern, hyperreal state of confusion induced by (mostly white male dominated) political institutions - to subtle, poignant impact in Untamed Region, whilst The Great Undressing is a soaring piece of synth-pop unleavened by its subject matter, and The Plague seems to epitomise a state of confusion in its cut-up, head-scrambling maze of tabla, drones, anguished wails and incendiary descent.
If smart art, literature or music has the power to convey a feeling that can’t be summed up in scientific or technical terms, then it’s fair to say Jenny has simulated sensations all too uncannily with Blood Bitch.
A very remarkable, important record.