Review: Bjork’s Vulnicura can be a transformative and rewarding listen
It’s hard to ignore any new Bjork releases and for good reason.
Bjork has made huge strides in electronic music and has essentially built a career off her experimentation and innovation (not to mention a killer voice).
But by now Bjork fans will know to expect the unexpected. No one could have predicted that her latest album, Vulnicura, would drop a full 2 months before it’s scheduled release date. While her recent affiliations with Death Grips may have hinted at a more abrasive sound; the surprise release of Vulnicura takes us back to Bjork’s most intimate sound since Vespertine.
The biggest change with Vulnicura is Bjork’s collaboration with hot-shot producer Arca.
Rolling Stone confirms, “she wrote six of the nine tracks herself, co-wrote two with Arca — a producer on Kanye West’s Yeezus and FKA Twigs’ LP1 — and penned one with Spaces. Björk and Arca produced much of the album together, while British producer ,the Haxan Cloak, also chipped in on one track, and handled most of the mixing.”
The addition of the two producers is noticeable through the entire album, mainly in the way the beats are programmed.
The track “Family” features The Haxan Cloak’s massive looming bass hits, then transforms into a floating lucid drone that would make Tim Hecker fan’s drool.
Traces of Arca’s dizzy, atmospheric and often minimalistic style can be found in almost every track on the album. The electronics provide added detail and dynamics. They really help fill in Vulnicura’s otherwise very amorphous song structure.
With Arca behind much of the production, one might expect massive beats (A la Yeezus). That is not the case with Vulnicura. Instead, the album contains some of Bjorks most skeletal tracks to date.
If a genre were to be given to Vulnicura, it would most likely contain the prefix “Post” or “Ambient.”
The album is not in a rush, with a majority of the tracks steadily drifting above the 6 minute mark. A part from the sparse rhythmic pulses of the beats; much of the composition relies of string swells and drones.
This latest album from Bjork is definitely a slow burner but it really starts to make sense with the concept in mind.
What appears to be an explanation for Vulnicura was released via Facebook: “…The wound and the healing of the wound. Psychologically and physically, it has a stubborn clock attached to it. There is a way out and then a magic thing happened to me: as I lost one thing something else entered…”
The album mirrors like the healing of a wound. “The title comes from a latin word where “Vulnus” means “wound, injury”, and “Cura” means “heal, care.”
The first half of the album is very somber and subdued. It’s filled with anguish and confusion, but as it progresses, it becomes increasingly light.
The album’s closer, “Quicksand” sounds as if the song is evaporating, very much a nod to the production techniques used.
There is confusion on “Lion Song” as Bjork sings “Once it was simple, one feeling at a time/It reached this peak then transformed/These abstract complex feelings/I just don’t know how to handle them.”
This is a drastic change in theme when compared to her last full length LP Biophilia. While Biophilia contained a whimsical pseudo-scientific concept, Vulnicura is more emotionally introspective.
Bjork has reached a mature stage in her life and Vulnicura is proof. It tackles themes dealing with painful relationships, the meaning of family, death and immortality.
On “Black Lake” she sings “I did it for love, I honored my feelings/You betrayed your own heart, corrupted that organ/Family was always our sacred mutual mission/Which you abandoned.” The lyrics are deliberate and poetic while the vocal delivery soars above the nebulous electronics and drones.
While a majority of Vulnicura is a rather somber affair, the album is not all doom and gloom.
As the concept suggests, there is resolution. The latter half of Vulnicura reaches a catharsis as the formless structure starts to take shape.
The turmoil is confronted and Vulnicura becomes warmer lyrically, emotionally, and instrumentally. Perhaps the brightest moment on Vulnicura is with the song “Atom Dance” as Bjork Sings “Our hearts are coral reefs in low tide/Love is the ocean we crave/Restlessly turning around and around/I am dancing towards transformation”
With any Bjork release, expect mystic and beautiful sound which is still very much present here. However Vulnicura does not rate as one of Bjork’s more accessible albums with it being so conceptually challenging.
Additionally, It’s placid temperament and sparse composition may be difficult to penetrate for some. Be patient and Vulnicura can be a transformative and rewarding listen.
Recommended Tracks: Stone Milker, Lion Song, Family, Quicksand.
Hey I’m Joe. I’m an intern at RVA Mag and GayRva for the spring 2014 session. I’m currently enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University in the creative advertising program. My goals for my career are simple; job satisfaction. I want to be part of work that I can feel good about. I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life and have been living in richmond for about 3 years. I’d consider myself a media junkie. Whether I’m sitting in a bookstore with a pile of magazines or scouring the internet, I’m always looking for something to spark my interest.
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