Jenny Hval

Jenny Hval 2_BROCHURE
photo by Jenny Berger Myhre

Mistletone is beyond delighted to present the incomparable Jenny Hval, bringing her hypnotising performance to Sydney Festival and MONA FOMA 2016 plus a performance at NGV’s Friday Nights program during the Andy Warhol / Ai Weiwei exhibition; and throwing into question everything we know about gender and sexuality, health and capitalism, physicality, the body and the soul.


  • HOBART: Friday January 15 @ MONA: main stage, 3pm. Tickets & more info here.
  • SYDNEY FESTIVAL: Tuesday January 19 + Wednesday January 20 @ The Famous Spiegeltent, 8pm; tickets on sale now here.
  • MELBOURNE: Friday January 22 @ NGV: Friday Nights, Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition. Tickets and info NGV.

Jenny Hval is a Norwegian singer, writer, artist, songwriter and provocateur. With a background in writing and performance, her music is poetic, sensual, challenging, dark and beautiful; as well as melodic and spacious. A one-time Australian resident, Jenny Hval studied Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne, as well as Literature at the University of Oslo. In addition to her dazzling musical career, she has published two books – the novel Perlebryggeriet (The Pearl Brewery) in 2009 and the collage text Inn i ansiktet (Sings with her eyes) in 2012. Alongside this, she has produced collaborative performances and sound installations, as well as contributing to magazines, anthologies and newspapers.

  • “Like Björk or Joanna Newsom, Jenny Hval’s music packs an emotionally dense and textured punch, but Hval is also unafraid to be funny or to hold the listener at a distance. Like Laurie Anderson’s Big ScienceApocalypse, Girl functions as a snapshot of a distinct moment within late capitalism” – VICE

Think big, girl, like a king, think kingsize. Jenny Hval’s new record Apocalypse, girl  (out now on Sacred Bones Records) opens with a quote from the Danish poet Mette Moestrup, and continues towards the abyss. Apocalypse, girl is a hallucinatory narrative that exists somewhere between fiction and reality, a post-op fever dream, a colourful timelapse of death and rebirth, close-ups of impossible bodies — all told through the language of transgressive pop music.

When Norwegian noise legend Lasse Marhaug interviewed Jenny Hval for his fanzine in early 2014, they started talking about movies, and the conversation was so interesting that she asked him to produce her next record. It turned out that talking about film was a great jumping off point for album production. Hval’s songs slowly expanded from solo computer loops and vocal edits to contributions from bandmates Håvard Volden and Kyrre Laastad, before finally exploding into collaborations with Øystein Moen (Jaga Jazzist/Puma), Thor Harris (Swans), improv cellist Okkyung Lee and harpist Rhodri Davis. All of these musicians have two things in common: they are fierce players with a great ear for intimacy, and they hear music in the closing of a suitcase as much as in a beautiful melody.

And so Apocalypse, girl is a very intimate, very visual beast. It dreams of an old science fiction movie where gospel choir girls are punks and run the world with auto-erotic impulses. It’s a gentle hum from a doomsday cult, a soft desire for collective devotion, an ode to the close-up and magnified, unruly desires.

Jenny Hval has developed her own take on intimate sound since the release of her debut album in 2006. Her work, which includes 2013’s critically celebrated Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon), has gradually incorporated books, sound installations and collaborations with poets and visual artists. For Hval, language is central, always torn between the vulnerable, the explosive and total humiliation.

Viscera, Jenny’s first album released under her own name in 2011, was set in the body. The songs are stories of flesh and travelling, both sensual and provocative. She wanted to make free music, without a conceptual framework, but realised after recording the album that all the songs deal with travelling in one way or another. Some songs have a modernist protagonist – an unknown and yet present I – whereas other songs take place in the body, visceral travelling. Inside becomes outside, the body is turned inside out. The music for Viscera was composed and arranged by improvising. It follows the lyrics wherever they go: spoken word, surrealist folk tales, or just plain provocative imagery. Modernist fantasy? Fantastic anatomy? WIRE magazine described the record as “a stunning achievement both conceptually and musically.”

Back in 2006, Jenny Hval released her debut proper, To Sing You Apple Trees, under the moniker Rockettothesky. The album received rave reviews and became a surprise hit with its mix of pop, poetry and rampant sexuality. She was nominated for a Norwegian Grammy in the Best New Act category and she played most of the big Norwegian festivals in 2007, as well as shows and small festivals in UK and Europe.

With her second album Medea (2008, also as Rockettothesky), a different and more experimental tone was set. Hval invoked the greek tragic heroine Medea – the monstrous mother, powerful sorceress, and foreign woman – through spoken word and improvised sound textures. She also started playing live with free improv musicians Håvard Volden (guitar) and Kyrre Laastad (drums & percussion).

Since the release of Medea, Jenny Hval has completed several other projects: composing and performing the commissioned piece “Meshes of Voice” with singer and composer Susanna Wallumrød (Susanna and the Magical Orchestra) for Ladyfest 2009, composing and performing at the Ultima Festival for Contemporary Music, published the slightly controversial novel “Perlebryggeriet” (“The Pearl Brewery”, 2009) and started a free folk/improv duo with Håvard Volden (Nude on Sand).

In 2013, Jenny made a breakthrough on Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon), recorded with producer John Parish (PJ Harvey). As Pitchfork described the album: “Opening with Hval watching internet porn and closing with her discovering a new way to inhabit her body, Innocence Is Kinky examines thorny issues of gender identity and commodified sexuality. She gives her songs titles like “Death of the Author” and “Amphibious, Androgynous”. Mythological figures wander in and out of these songs: Mephisto does his best Ophelia, Oedipus blindly wanders the streets of Oslo, and Pinnochio takes communion. By far the most significant figure among these songs is also the most human: Renée Falconetti, the silent-film star whose close-up in 1928’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the most indelible images in the history of cinema. “The camera is a mirror, but mine, not yours,” Hval sings as an organ thrums in the background and a low bass note pulses on the downbeat.”

Multidisciplinary and transgressive are words often employed to describe her art, but Jenny Hval’s polyphonic artistry is in fact seamlessly interwoven between musical, literary, visual and performative modes of expression. She has infused, carved and modulated an artistic voice that is altogether present, accessible and obscurely complex at the same time.