Jenny Hval

The Practice of Love

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With each of her albums, Jenny Hval uses different facets of pop music to express her intricate concepts. To explore love as an action rather than a passive state of being, on The Practice of Love, she borrows the sound of '90s trance as a backdrop for her musings. It's an unlikely but ultimately inspired combination: The washy synths, wide-open spaces, and hypnotic yet energetic beats of trance music let Hval's ideas flow in a remarkably engaging way while also harking back to the floaty sounds of Innocence Is Kinky. The very smoothness of The Practice of Love's music demands that her audience listen closely as Hval suggests that maintaining connection, whether through the senses or through questions, may be the key to being an attentive friend, lover, or artist. Sometimes, she mulls over these concepts on her own, as on "High Alice," a blissful union of her searching nature, sexuality, and commitment to creativity, and on the serenely complex "Ashes to Ashes," a song about a dream of another song that describes the fleeting nature of life, its joys, and its sorrows. More often, though, Hval enlists a select group of collaborators to help her look inward and reach outward on The Practice of Love. The soothing yet commanding intonations of Vivian Wang, a classically trained pianist (and former TV presenter) on "Lions" gives the song the feel of a guided meditation that takes mindfulness to a new level when she asks, "Where is God?" Throughout the album, Hval and company reflect on the seemingly natural order of things, in particular motherhood -- or the lack of it. "Accident," a poignant dialogue between two childless women featuring Australian musician Laura Jean, sends its existential questions hurtling through space via the most cosmic side of trance music. On the album's title track, Hval makes the layers she's working with more literal as she juxtaposes Wang's reading of a monologue Hval wrote for the film Something Must Happen with a conversation between herself and Jean; as their thoughts on love, death, and family collide and combine, it makes for fascinating -- if complicated -- listening. By contrast, Hval, Wang, Jean, and FĂ©licia Atkinson join forces on "Six Red Cannas," a rapturous celebration of female creativity that reconnects it to elemental forces. The way that Hval combines the different perspectives that form relationships and communities with the ritualistic, repetitive nature of dance music makes The Practice of Love feel like a rave exploring the nature of love, existence, and time. It may be her subtlest, most approachable album yet; though its ideas are just as complex and provocative as those of Blood Bitch or Apocalypse, Girl, there's something welcoming about it that engages the hearts and minds of her listeners fully.

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