BJORK – “VULNICURA” (ALBUM REVIEW)

 Authored by Dale Nickey:

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,,,,this time it’s personal…..

The album “Vulnicura” represents a return to Bjork’s musical core elements. Those being, voice, strings and beats. The most obvious antecedent to this new work would be Bjork’s fifth album “Vespertine”. However, where “Vespertine” chronicled a contented solitude and retreat to the interior world of home; this new record examines – by torchlight – the chambers of a wounded soul. This is Bjork’s breakup album, her “Blood On The Tracks”. And the person of interest is Bjork’s longtime companion, collaborator and father of her second child, Matthew Barney.

The fact that Barney is a filmmaker who collaborated with Bjork on film explains the cinematic gravitas of “Vulnicura”. However, the scale is not widescreen, its tightly framed and spare. The strings on “Vespertine” were panoramic and patriotic. Bjork’s string arrangements on “Vulnicura” are compressed and drip with melodrama. “Vulnicura” is a one woman, nine-act play, save a cameo from Antony (of The Johnsons) on “Atom Dance”. On this album it’s Bjork’s voice that dominates the sonic landscape.  And it’s a career performance.

Bjorkologists will look back at the previous three albums, “Medulla”, “Volta” and “Biophilia” as the artist’s grand troika of her outsider, experimental period. These albums probed the outer frontier of sound, rhythm and technology and inhabit a distant elliptical orbit in Bjork’s discography. However, “Vulnicura” brings it all back home; an artistic shift that is wise, welcome and challenging.

This is the artist’s most emotionally naked album. It is somewhat disconcerting to hear Bjork suffering on record. We have come to view her as some sort of alpha-fem super hero under the emotional sway of no man or entity. Now she hurts, a man did her wrong and she telling the world about it without the buffering agent of a character or musical concept. Indeed, on the cover we find our heroine dressed in mourning black with a deep, gaping wound in her chest for all the world to see; spikes emanating from her head and arms protecting her from any kiss or caress that might presage more heartbreak.

The lyrics scan like a nine part deposition testifying her need for clarity, her hope for rapprochement and her grief at the collapse of her triangle of love that defines the traditional family unit of father, mother, child. And in the end, a steely, Icelandic acceptance that she’s been cut adrift by an emotionally disconnected man who loved her less than he was loved. Bjork is an artist who has traditionally obfuscated personal emotions and feelings by inhabiting different characters for each album. All of whom were obviously different incarnations of the artist, but still remained alien and just beyond our grasp. On “Vulnicura”, her lyric-thoughts seem like sudden bursts of emotional epiphany written on the fly in restaurants, airports, and hotel rooms across the globe; pieced together at a later date, like some emotional jigsaw puzzle of the heart.

You’ll find no breakthrough hit single on “Vulnicura”. No hooks, riffs or choruses to hum on your morning commute. Bjork didn’t make this album for us. In a sense, she’s dumped her emotional garbage on us – the devoted listeners. But it’s a fascinating heap, strewn with all things sparkling and pulsating. Semi-precious gems, discarded living organs and cloth pages ripped and crumpled from a leather-bound diary. A glorious mess, projectile vomited from the heart. Bjork can’t make an inconsequential album it seems. This one sticks to you and grows. However, is “Vulnicura” her masterpiece?

Possibly… maybe.

************************************************************************************************************************************ (Editors Note: Due to time constraints a track by track overview was not available by press time. Will follow at later date)

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