Exploring Film, Music, Art and the Wider Cultural Themes that Surround Them

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Cultural Bulletin discusses Experimental Music, Independent Cinema and the wider cultural themes that surround them.

In Review: Jenny Hval - The Long Sleep

Label: Sacred Bones

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The last part of Jenny Hval’s EP plays out like the advertisement for a product that you didn’t know you wanted or needed. It ends with ‘I love you’, which could be interpreted as something we fundamentally require (or are promised aspects of) from the consumer landscape. This short track is emblematic of the EP in general, which uses aspects of pop music to deliver a genuinely moving and engaging work. By speaking in the vernacular, musically, Hval is able to communicate culturally relevant ideas within the moments that they exist. The outcome is that The Long Sleep is able to reflect the tension between the collective loss of the human being in 21st Century Capitalism whilst sincerely expressing the beauty within the reality of the same cultural situation.

The record is characteristically nuanced, yet the emotional resonance of it is direct. It could be defined as a happy defiance in the face of certain despair, from which there is a form of liberation to be found - an acceptance or escape from the solipsism that envelopes the concept of the individual. Hval sums it up: ‘exercising everything by typing into nothing’ - after all, ‘we will not be awake for long’. It is this kind of celebratory affirmation with a strand of nihilism that is unique to our culture and that Hval is able to extract affirmative aspects of. 

Last month, Rob Arcand, when writing for spin.com, recognised the transcendent or aspects of The Long Sleep. He also recognised Hval’s contribution and conscious experiments with the ambient music. The ten-minute title track, ‘The Long Sleep’, is naturally an essential aspect of the EP but also the most subtle yet subversive component. It reflects something of the rhythm to the consciousness of our time. The soft hum, of our increasingly digitally oriented minds and the constant proximity to a continuous flow of content is expressed. The track is akin to a lava flow of our information, packed so densely with energy that we can only see a low-resolution image of the heavy stream of seemingly random sounds and images. No doubt the reference to sleep is analogous to the dreamlike experience of being awake - a collective sedation that is not completely separate from the divine.

Across the record, Hval successfully articulates the essential tension and coexistence between cynicism and sincerity. It’s a vital message because so often the pendulum is unbalanced as a consequence of focussing too heavily on absolutes. As Hval explains clearly when talking to you:

It’s not in the words
It’s not in the rhythm
It’s not in the message
It’s not in the product
It’s not in the algorithms
It’s not in the streaming...

But something of it is here - you could/can feel it and The Long Sleep is imbued with it. AG