Norwegian experimentalist Jenny Hval has spent the past decade mulling over the intricacies of sexuality in her music, exploring the body and our body’s relation to itself in stark portraiture. “Sabbath” — the magnificent second single from her upcoming new album Apocalypse, girl — is perhaps the most vivid rendering of that yet. Hval’s vocals have an airy quality to them, traveling over a skittering, improvised drum beat. During the spoken word portions of the track, her voice gains a heft as she digs her heel in deep: “Somedays I feel like my body is straightened, held up by thin braces, metal spires embrace my spine, my face, my cunt — I can feel myself from the bone, but I can’t see who’s holding them” she says in striking clarity. “It would be easy to think about submission, but I don’t think it’s about submission, it’s about holding and being held.” Absolutely breathtaking. It’s about not feeling comfortable in your own skin, but feels surprisingly warm and welcoming, which is probably the point — it’s something we all go through. Listen and read an explanation from Hval below:
I think I’ve been writing this song since about 1986. Because when I was really young, I had a dream that my vagina had braces. For a long time, it (‘Sabbath’) was a monologue with a heavy drum loop and I had no idea what it was or why. It was just a galloping urge to say something. And then the chorus appeared. It’s like a mother; it just wants you to be happy. I really wanted to create something soft & loving. And I think it’s really catchy. Which is also very mothering, a mother catches you . . . I watched the film Daisies (Czechoslovak New Wave CLASSIC), while we were recording the album, and now when I think of ‘Sabbath’ I think of the two main characters in that film. Daisies is hyper surreal and an extraordinary mix of politics and desire . . . I open with saying ‘I dream I’m a boy,’ but the song is very much about girls. Girls playing, dreaming, singing, transforming. Girls speaking to and for everyone.
Apocalypse, girl is out 6/9 via Sacred Bones.