“I want to live in a democracy/ Where art is free / Not that it ever was,” sings Jenny Hval during the atmospheric art-pop jam, Freedom. One of the many surrealistic snapshots during Classic Objects – the Norwegian avant-garde maverick’s eighth album and first for indie heavyweights, 4AD.
Entangling her bizarre hybrid of baroque eccentricities with sunny pop immediacy, while still maintaining the unique juxtapositions only Hval knows how, she carves out what is her most accessible album yet.
Hval has always flirted with the ideas of pop grandeur, and over the last three years has drawn closer to making that quantum leap. Look no further than the 2019 offering, The Practice of Love. Hval got close, and with the atmospheric grandeur of Classic Objects her mission is now complete.
While thematically Hval elegantly explores the frontiers where love and free living are at a premium, on Classic Objects she also continues her quest to untangle the intricacies of the human condition.
Mixing fantasy with the mundane, Year of Love takes its cue from something we’re used to hearing from the likes of Vanishing Twin (“But in the year of love / I signed a deal with patriarchy / Now watch me step / Into the place where you can see me.”)
The fleetingly gorgeous American Coffee follows. A story of Hval’s mother drifting between inner-city Melbourne suburbs as she endeavours her latest chapter in life. It’s one of the most striking moments Hval has captured within the studio walls. Luckily for us there’s more throughout.
Those fantastical snapshots are once again discovered on the title track and Cemetery of Splendour, as emotional desolation is drowned out by capricious surrealism.
Hval continues to flit between layers upon layers of sound. With tribal rhythms and meditative-like harmonies, Year of Sky is like the song Robyn never wrote. Meanwhile, there’s Jupiter. With a melody and feverish percussion that soars with majestic grace, alongside American Coffee, Jupiter is yet another high-watermark moment on Classic Objects. The two tracks are merely interchangeable when trying to distinguish Hval’s finest song yet.
While Freedom is filled with dreamy nostalgia, it ends with Hval’s sharpest message on Classic Objects (“Out there is the world / Where you’re threatening the lives / Of fragile individuals / When you stirring the mud / Look to the birds / To the crowds that have dispersed / In the wounded air that we call freedom“).
It opens the gates for the closing track, The Revolution Will Not Be Owned. While Freedom is razor sharp in message, musically this is Hval at her most complex, adding glittery pop inflections in front of a doom jazz passage the likes of The Necks have mastered.
Classic Objects is an album that will be hard to shift from the conscious anytime soon. For your own sanity it’s the kind of record that you need to put down for a couple of months; the fear of its shine wearing off and its edges being blunted almost too much to bear.
Hval has orchestrated an art-pop classic. Completely unique as two worlds collide, and the lightshow that fills the night sky is something like we’ve neither seen nor heard before.