Born in Oslo in 1980, experimental songwriter Jenny Hval’s music career began with gothic metal band Shellyz Raven, whose sole, doom-tinged album Desolation was released on the short-lived Spanish independent War Is Imminent Productions. Moving to Australia to study creative writing and performance at the University of Melbourne, she joined forces with guitarist Thomas McGowan to form Folding For Air, who released an EP entitled Are You Afraid of Heights? in 2004.
Upon her return to Norway, Hval began working on solo material informed by the subtle pop of Folding For Air. Adopting the moniker Rockettothesky, she self-released her debut EP Cigars in 2006, picking up a Best Newcomer nomination at the Spellemannprisen, the prestigious Norwegian music industry awards ceremony. The album To Sing You Apple Trees followed later that year on Oslo’s Trust Me Records, melding electronic textures and lush folk arrangements with a sombre, affecting take on pop melodicism. These themes were developed further on 2008’s more ambitious follow-up album Medea, which expanded on her debut’s electronic influences and instrumental range, before Hval (also a gifted writer and columnist) published her first novel Perlebryggeriet in 2009.
Reverting to her own name, Hval moved to another label – Oslo’s Rune Gammofon, also home to cult riff monsters Motorpsycho – and released her solo debut proper in 2011. Recorded under the guidance of ambient producer Helge Sten, aka Deathprod, Viscera presented a much starker sound than her work as Rockettothesky, and saw Hval’s work begin to pick up attention in UK press. Two years later, she teamed up with British producer John Parish (noted for his work with PJ Harvey, Eels and Giant Sand) to record the remarkable Innocence is Kinky, an dissonant, challenging exploration of sexuality and gender identity. The album received widespread praise and drew comparison to Yoko Ono and Lydia Lunch.
In between her two solo albums, Hval had returned to collaborative work, forming self-described ‘free-folk’ duo Nude on Sand with improvisatory guitarist Håvard Volden for one self-titled album, and in 2014 she also teamed up with explorative Kongsberg musician Susanna for the album Meshes of Voice. It wasn’t until 2015, however, that she would fully announce herself as an artist to be reckoned with. Signing with noted Brooklyn indie stable Sacred Bones (Blanck Mass, Psychic Ills, John Carpenter), Hval’s Apocalypse, Girl was widely cited as a masterpiece, drenched in her hyper-intelligent approach to politics and gender and offering (according to our review) “an incredibly arresting commentary on the state of the West.” Subsequent tours presented a stage show which drew from her performance art origins to present something more pointed and thematically complex than the average gig, and the album duly ranked highly on end-of-year best album lists.
Jenny Hval Discography
Jenny Hval has released five solo albums – two under the name Rockettothesky and three under her own name. She has also collaborated with Norwegian experimentalist Susanna for the album Meshes of Voice.
To Sing You Apple Trees (2006)
As Jenny Hval
Innocence is Kinky (2013)
Apocalypse, Girl (2015)
- Collaboration albums
Meshes of Voice (with Susanna, 2012)
Jenny Hval Past Tours, Awards & Nominations
Jenny Hval has toured the UK, Europe and the US with the likes of St Vincent and Swans, and has appeared at festivals including Sydney Festival and Hopscotch in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2006 Spellemannprisen.