As any of our readers might have guessed by now, Jenny Hval is one of Here Today’s favourite performers. We’ll brave anything, including the post-Roskilde blues to catch her live. Tonight in the intimate environment of Brorsons Kirke we had one of the best opportunities to see her up close, her conceptual theatrics brought into a more personal sphere. Her latest EP, The Long Sleep, sees her taking a more expansive, Pharoah Sanders approach to her music, complete with a horn section.
Tonight Jenny Hval has brought a stripped down horn section, trumpet and saxophone, to rework some of her previous material as well. “Conceptual Romance” begins by eschewing synths altogether, before gradually being joined by a Korg Minilogue and eventually a drum machine. But perhaps “stripped down” is not really the right term for a performance that involves abstract visuals and a member of the band distributing candyfloss from an ornate wooden box.
Of course the saxophone and trumpet really come into their own on “Spells”, where they weave with each other in an expansive, dreamy mood. This song also has the great virtue of showcasing Jenny’s vocal abilities, often obscured in her more spoken-word based work. From a low whisper she climbs up to the refrain’s heady, piercing notes that abandon conceptualism for something a little wilder and riskier.
Although there is a lot of thought and calculation in Jenny Hval’s work, including abstruse references to critical theory, there is also an immediacy to it. Nowhere is this more typified than in the smartphone suite that marks the middle of the performance. It is not unusual for Jenny Hval live sets to involve the band taking selfies and videos of the audience, but tonight they are using the phones for the music itself. Generating tones from an app, the band wave their phones in front of a microphone to produce varying layers of drones. It’s a pretty good summation of her approach to music: thoughtful, funny and beautiful at the same time.