Boomkat Product Review:
Jenny Hval reconvenes with her long-time collaborator Håvard Volden on 'Selvutsletter', eschewing the dancefloor throb of their previous album and focusing on dark, electrifying, throwback pop. RIYL The Knife, New Order, SMERZ, Jessy Lanza.
Hval and Volden have been playing together for over a decade; Volden is part of Hval's touring band, and the duo used to record under the moniker Nude on Sand, releasing a single acoustic album in 2012. 'Selvutsletter' is their second Lost Girls full-length, and at this stage their collaboration is free and easy enough for both artists to explore their wilder instincts. Their inspiration for this one is experimental rock music, but that's hard to hear at first. Opening track 'Timed Intervals' is a woozy, electro-flecked slow burner, with Volden providing a skippy vintage drum machine beat and spaced-out synth textures, and Hval taking advantage of the space provided for her vocals, crooning longingly until her voice cracks into distortion.
It's on lead single 'Ruins' where the rock influence slides into view. Hval almost growls over a distorted bassline and pounding disco 4/4 that might as well have been chopped from New Order's 'Technique' sessions. But Hval's distinctive vocal melodies as usual float the music out onto its own private island. Slurring around the beats and euphoric harmonies, Hval has a commanding presence and an imposing range, as comfortable snarling like Siouxsie Sioux as she is serenading us with Kate Bush-isms. The duo remove the beat altogether on 'World on Fire'; Volden plays what might be a pipe organ, and Hval looks far into the past, sounding as if she's bellowing from the top of a mountain with her archaic folk phrasing.
By 'Jeg slutter meg selv' Volden and Hval are back on track, drifting from placid ambience into pounding pop-trance, before they introduce jangling guitars. In less capable hands, these elements could easily clash, so its to the duo's credit that they're able to form their ideas into such coherent pop miniatures. And their '90s nostalgia is displayed fully on 'June 1996', a track that if we didn't know better we'd swear was The Sundays. Volden and Hval sound as if they're having a blast on 'Selvutsletter', free to develop whatever whim they fancy - it's a process that's led to one of the most unabashedly enjoyable pop records of the year.