Rush released due to stupid arses leaking the album, Bjork’s Vulnicura arrived suddenly on Thursday 22 January, immediately plunging the listener into a world of orchestral pain and suffering. Written in the aftermath of her break up with artist Matthew Barney, Bjork teams up with Venezuelan beat maker Arca and mixer The Haxan Cloak, to produce an album that can be heavy going, both thematically and musically, but one that is ultimately a captivating listen.
The album seems to be designed to flow through a cycle starting with the end of a relationship, through desperate hope to rekindle the flame (see Lionsong’s “Maybe he will come out of this loving me”) to acceptance and ultimately on wards to pastures new. Opener Stonemilker’s mournful strings combine with despair filled lyrics sung heartrendingly and incredibly frankly by Bjork (“Moments of clarity are so rare/I better document this”…”Show me emotional respect/I have emotional needs”) and you immediately realise that you’re listening to someone singing songs that are incredibly personal. That can sometimes make for an awkward listen but Bjork avoids that throughout this album. Lionsong keeps the strings going but adds effects and beats that distort the emotional feel slightly, giving the impression of a song written at a low point and rather brilliantly, the production gives life to that mood.
History Of Touches is clearly the point at which the relationship ends, the electronic pulses backing Bjork recounting its highs and lows ahead of the album’s centerpiece Black Lake sees everything break down in acceptance of the end. It’s a lengthy, ten minutes plus track which again deals with the breakup starkly, initially to strings before some superb beats and electronics come in halfway through, almost resembling the first signs of hope on the record. Family shows off Bjork and Arca’s superb beat making teamwork, over lyrics that see Bjork sing about protecting her children (” Will you set a place/Where I can pay respects/To the death of my family”) before Notget turns up the pace slightly with the lyrics focusing more on moving forward and not looking back.
Atom Dance sees Bjork team up with long time collaborator Antony Heggarty with both voices combining wonderfully over an almost playful electronic background. The album’s last two tracks Mouth Mantra and Quicksand see Bjork getting ready to move forward. The former is a fairly uneasy listen at times with a multitude of vocal effects and unsettling beats flying around all over the place whilst the latter, is a combination of clattering beats and loops that ends the album on a high note.
Vulnicura is a tough, fairly uncompromising listen and the austere lyrics are sometimes almost too much to handle, but it’s a compelling album and one of Bjork’s best.