*Live Review written by guest writer Oonagh Collins*
It was clear from before the first note that Jenny Hval is not just a musician. Her other careers as video artist, author and cultural commentator were also evident. The show felt like an art piece as much as a music gig.
With two people on DJ decks on either side of the stage, plus the two other women acting as performance artists (both performing and filming themselves for live projections), there was a lot happening on stage. With all three women dressed in long pink or blonde wigs and white robes which were all shed during the performance, sexuality was a dominant theme. There was a pre-recorded video of one of the women having a yellow chain lowered into her mouth, with yellow gunge spilling out of her mouth after. Another video showed an exercise ball (as pictured on the latest album cover ‘Apocalypse, girl’) being pumped up by a woman in underwear. There were also periods where the other girls were grinding against Ms Hval and each other in a sexless fashion.
With a mix of spoken word and soaring melodic vocals clashing with harsh sounds being rewound and repeated on the decks, Ms Hval is.not afraid of making sometimes ugly, difficult music. It was challenging but fascinating work. In the moments where the music stopped, the crowd at Gullivers made its enthusiasm loudly known.
From the background video of factory processed hamburgers to a strange karaoke rendition of ‘Unbreak My Heart’ by one of the other two female performers on stage with her, it’s clear that Ms Hval is inspired by mainstream culture. Inspired (by what it lacks) to stay as far from it as possible. She sings about looking for subcultures in New York in ‘Kingsize’, the title a reference to a Danish poet. This is densely intellectual music and asks many questions while expecting us to keep up.
The feminist, left wing, ideological, questioning nature of her work was shown in ‘That Battle Is Over’ with a song about capitalism. With the lyrics ‘feminism’s over, socialism’s over, and I can consume what I want’ she has said previously that she is challenging her own buried anti-feminist or socialist thoughts. With this accessible, poppy, sweet voiced song with sharply political lyrics, hopefully she can make the mainstream move closer to her.