Jenny Hval The Practice of Love Sacred Bones
After the decadent textures of 2016 album Blood Bitch, an explication on menstruation via vampire tropes, where Jenny Hval would go next was anyone’s guess. The answer, it seems, is an all-encompassing dissertation on intimacy and desire expressed over a sonic palette which recalibrates her woozy synth-rock through the prism of 90s trance music. The Practice of Love is an ambitious undertaking and a bold new direction for Hval. It is, in a word, spellbinding.
Gone is the coarse mixing and homespun production hallmarks that marked her previous releases, replaced here by an acoustic clarity that prioritises the album’s array of crisp beats, a range that spans the thunderous techno of Accident to the hypnotic bell chimes of Ordinary. Hval employs these beats with a keen sense of their dramatic impact, letting the percussive line of album opener Lions explode without warning and submerging the circulatory thrum of Ashes to Ashes in dense reverb to pillow its feather-light aspirations.
The record’s bewitching chasm of hard dance rhythms and arpeggiated synths runs parallel with its lyrical dichotomy. Concerns of women’s abilities to pursue non-heteronormative trajectories in their relationships are validated even as Hval exalts the transcendent, almost clichéd bliss of “giving into the ordinary.” It’s an apt analogy for the album itself – The Practice of Love takes on a subject matter exhausted beyond belief and emerges with a work of radiant profundity.