Portland-via-Cleveland ambient guitar player Mark McGuire and Norwegian singer Jenny Hval shared a bill at The Chapel on Wednesday night. Although the turnout was rather slim due to an unfortunate lack of promotion, both artists were very expressive in their appreciation for those who showed up.
Mark McGuire performed long-form ambient guitar pieces from his new album Along the Way against a backdrop of projected visuals. The theme of the visuals varied from song to song, maintaining a hypnotic, psychedelic vibe throughout. Things got a little weird when political imagery flashed on the screen, with themes of terrorism and corruption juxtaposed against corporate logos and powerful leaders. The rest of the visual projections were less distracting, with McGuire playing his transcendent, effects-laden guitar loops against more natural and colorful background imagery.
Oslo-based singer, writer, and composer Jenny Hval headlined the show. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Havard Volden, Hval stunned the intimate crowd with her impressive vocal range. She opened her set by singing over a playback of her own voice from a handheld recorder, with Volden manipulating various hand and foot pedals. Volden mostly played electric bass and guitar, with Hval positioned behind a small Korg synthesizer. No elaborate visuals were necessary for the performance, as Hval confidently demonstrated her seasoned vocal abilities and poetically provocative lyrics. Although Hval referred to herself as “boring Jenny” after introducing Havard Volden, her performance proved to be anything but.
The pair performed several songs from Jenny Hval’s 2013 release Innocence Is Kinky, including “Mephisto In The Water” and “Death Of The Author”. Other highlights included “Blood Flight” from Hval’s 2011 album Viscera, and a small selection of new material. Hval tried out a new song called “Free”, and another new song previously heard only by “fifteen people in Omaha.” The song has a working title of “Heaven”, and is about Hval’s early singing experience in a church choir. After reluctantly agreeing to perform the work-in-progress following an audience vote, she explained, “I wanted to sing, but I didn’t really feel the Jesus.” One fan was so blown away by the performance that he exclaimed “Holy shit!” after the set. That about sums it up, as Jenny Hval has definitely proved to be an act worth seeking out.