It completely makes sense that John Parish, a favorite collaborator of PJ Harvey, would produce Jenny Hval's "Innocence is Kinky." Sometimes the album is so intimate, so emotionally charged, that it would put you in mind of Harvey and some of her best whisperings. Parish also makes use of the grungey, soft-loud dynamic here as well, of which Harvey is a master.
But Hval is no Harvey clone - she's got Bjork's love for the unexpected, the curve ball and the punishing sound that pushes you out, which keeps listeners on their toes and makes for a very exciting experience. One never knows where a song will go and even upon repeated listens, the tension is somehow always there.
Any album that begins with the phrase, "At night, I watch people f*****g on my computer," is looking to nakedly engage the listener, but this beginning is deceptively simple and doesn't hint at the ride to come. Consider "Give Me That Sound," a noise rock song that features shrill sounds and grinding static and is completely unanticipated, when one considers the relative softness of the previous five tracks.
The highlight of the album is "Mephisto on the Water," which veers from imaginative spoken-word ("There's spring/ Holds a killer in her claws/ She comes up with the river/ That climbs the mountain sides") to a high-pitched chorus and ends with Hval repeating "I run out of you" until you can barely understand her anymore. The song's all over the place and the better for it, kind of like the album.
Four stars out of five.