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Listen very closely indeed: Viscera, the new album from the astonishing Norwegian artist Jenny Hval, starts so quietly that any extraneous noises obliterate the careful bell sounds that open it. This quietness is important: Hval wants us to listen to the whole sound of the bell – the moment of its striking, the rising in volume, to the final decay of the note – as if to make us focus on what happens at the limits of our senses.

But Viscera is about more than the imperceptible. It’s an album that is as much about poetry and story-telling as performance, using as its central conceit the idea of the body that births the music. Hval’s English-language lyrics bear study – tongues, hair, milk, livers, all get a mention – and the music veers from the slight to the full-on. ‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ is a swarming cloud of sound that takes the album to new places. Already provoking comparisons with Patti Smith and Kate Bush, Hval is one to watch.

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New Internationalist issue 444 magazine cover This article is from the July-August 2011 issue of New Internationalist.
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