Björk is an artist who sees it as her duty to pour herself into projects, no matter what the medium or how outlandish they may appear. For her previous 2011 album, Biophilia, she participated in the creation of a series of interactive apps that formed part of a multimedia experience intended to enhance the album’s theme of musicology. In exposing her vulnerable core in a Vulnicura, she has been just as meticulous and self-critical, as evidenced by the fact that she sat on demos of these songs for some two years before deciding it was the right time to shape them into an album.
The nine tracks of Vulnicura are a strong reminder why the album will never die even in the pick ‘n’ mix culture of the internet. Each one maps out an instance of hurt caused by the severing of a relationships – the memory of that first dance, the empty double bed, the lack of comforting intimacy – and takes you through one woman’s path of healing by way of a sensory sonic journey.
Björk has long been the heiress to throne of avant-garde music, and the soundscape of Vulnicura is experimental, ambient and, yet, oddly human. Quiet, sorrowful string chords can be heard throughout, creating a beautifully sombre classical hollow into which Björk sheds her sorry regrets in her stately Icelandic accent. Meanwhile, the plethora of weird electronic noises – a swoosh that could be the sound of a heavy axe thudding down on a tree branch (‘Family), a steady pulse like a beating heart (‘Stonemilker’), a Nutcracker-esque ice dance (‘Atom Dance’) – and intentional erratic overdubs, that take you someplace else completely as Vulnicura unfolds.
As uncool as this may sound, Vulnicura is a very grown-up break-up album. At the time of writing, with very limited experience of Björk’s past albums, it hard to define what her ninth album compares to in contemporary music. Arca (who co-produced several songs) and FKA Twigs perhaps? Honestly, classically, it reminds me somewhat of Enya in places, while electronically it feels like it merges the best of downtempo and techno with Björk’s unique ear for leftfield compositions. You may not have lived or loved long enough to feel the true depth of Vulnicura, but it will still do a number on the curious heart.
Vulnicura is out now on One Little Indian.
Have you listened to this album? If so, what did you think of it? Tweet me @dk33per.
Image: One Little Indian/PR