In all of her projects, Jenny Hval has created music that demands to be contemplated; never afraid to tackle issues such as gender and sexuality in her music and always in a nuanced fashion, carefully avoidant of cliché. You needn’t look further than her last full-length, menstrually-inspired album, Blood Bitch, for an example of this. However, if you’re looking for topical social commentary, Hval’s newest EP, The Long Sleep, is maybe not the place to look.
This isn’t to say that the Norwegian artist has lost any of her ability to realise deep layers of subconscious thought in her music. The Long Sleep documents a personal and introspective exploration of the self. Hval opens the EP with Spells, seemingly the most melodic track in the new release. This ethereal blend of brass and piano builds a sparkling backdrop for Hval, who lays out the thematic groundwork for the EP as she reassures “You will not be awake for long”. This refrain can seem ominous when read but, when delivered by Hval, feels identical to the promise of peace and security that can be found in a warm duvet. This promise is repeated on the gentler second song, The Dreamer Is Everyone in Her Dream, where the vocals are coupled with only the piano in the first half before a sparse, synth-driven crescendo. From this point on, the EP takes on a more ambiguous musical structure, dealing in repetition and noise that in one brief listen could be mistaken for unimaginative filler material. However, the true artistry in this project is in the small quirks and extended soundscapes that can be found in the ten-minute-long title track.
The EP is brought to a tender close with a monologue examining the relationship between artist and listener and its simultaneously deeply personal and detached nature. The singer ends the song with the line “Thank you, I love you”, uttered so perfectly at the end of a deeply introspective album that you can’t help but find yourself yearning to say it back.