Throughout Björk’s career, spanning over two decades, she has never failed to deliver astounding beauty in her music. Her surprise release Vulnicura is no different.

Bjork Vulnicura
Björk - Vulnicura

five stars for Bjork

Label: One Little Indian
Producers: Björk, Arca, The Haxan Cloak
Buy here

Vulnicura carries a strange aura. Its beauty is immediately apparent with seductive string arrangements set against electronic beats, but it is only on reaching the third track History of Touches, that the album takes a stark turn. The melancholy of the first two tracks is suddenly put into perspective as you hear an insincere Björk, "I wake in the middle of the night to express my love for you, stroke your skin and feel you, naked I can feel all of you, at the same moment." It is these sensual lyrics coupled with the ominous, punchy and disjointed synth that suggest something darker is at play. The instruments mimic Björk's voice, adding the emotional depth that her voice lacks. This sinister sensuality almost has the impact of touch through sound. All is not right.

As the album unravels, and in many ways becomes more unhinged, it is apparent that we are dealing with separation. The inner notes of the album suggest as much; track by track counting down the months before the end of a relationship, and then back up, the months after. As corny and cliché as this sounds, this album is offering us something other than teenager-y lyrics and sentimental strings. Of the album Björk says, "It's about what may come to a person at the end of a relation. It talks about the dialogues we may have in our heads and in our hearts, the healing processes." Soft strings turn shrill. The beat throughout is an off-beat heart; it is difficult to separate the sensations of the body when talking about this work, its content is completely visceral. Love ends and then something else happens; not a sense of loss but a sense of senses. The arrangements become more complex and have more in common with the discomfort of modernist classical composition than contemporary pop music. She is not scared of movement, even when it is rigid in its fluidity. But why are we surprised? This is exactly what we have come to expect from Björk: the unexpected. 

The “cura” of Vulnicura surely refers to the transition that occurs around track seven, Atom Dance. This is steeped in positivity, which earlier tracks lack. This Atom Dance is ritualistic in nature, the beat of the heart is a futuristic tribal drum, and a surprise guest vocal of Anthony Hegarty (Anthony and the Johnsons) is chant-like and dances with the universe. It is curative.

One cannot ignore the power that Björk delivers on this album. She is candid in her lyrics, to the extent that the listening is almost a voyeuristic experience. The final track is a testament to the healing process which we have encountered in listening. But what of the “Vul” in Vulnicura. Is it vulnerability? Is it the vul of vulva (literally meaning womb)? Her references throughout to her own body, the ideas of loss portrayed, even the suggestive image across Björk’s chest on the album cover is one of femininity. Her final words:

“We are siblings of the sun
let’s step into this beam
every time you give up
you take away our future
and my continuity
and my daughter’s
and her daughter’s
and her daughter’s…”

If 2011’s Biophilia lies in nature, then Vulnicura is of the body, I urge you all to take 58 minutes out of your day and dedicate it to experiencing this album.
Buy from iTunes.

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