By Rathan Paul Harshavardan
Released Thursday January 22nd, 2015 - Inertia
Something about heart-break is therapeutic to artistic geniuses likeBjörk, who've made it perfectly clear that finding happiness in sadness is really in vogue. Most of the albums I've reviewed recently are all about the death of something these artists have held close to their heart. So when the queen of experimental music announced the release of Vulnicura, her ninth studio album after Biophilia, I couldn't wait to lay my hands on it. In her own quirky way, Björk makes healing a broken heart an organic process, one that has exposed a very vulnerable yet expressive Björk.
In 30 years, Björk has produced a discography that is varied and displayed very few shades of her personal life. This new album Vulnicura is more than a personal testimony of what happened in her life; it is her way of digging deep and putting the much-needed soul in electronic music. Vulnicura is a stroll into a very painful past for the Icelandic singer; a complete 180-degrees from the futuristic and ambitious Biophilia, known for its inclusion of science in music.
The ninth album from One Little Indian Records, was leaked two months in advance and starts withStonemilker; a poetic and well-deserved jab at her partner of 11 years, Matthew Barney. Starting with an orchestrated backdrop, Björk brings the soul into electronica with her voice as she sings the chorus, "Show me emotional respect / I have emotional needs / I wish to synchronize our feelings." Only a wordsmith like Björk, can come up with wordplay that sounds like "Like milking a stone / To get you to say it" to announce that she's hurt. A must listen.
The rest of the album is followed by proclamations of a woman in love, jilted and deserted for reasons known to herself alone. On Lionsong, a very raw and rather worried Björk sings about being bothered if her man will return to her or not, declaring that she really doesn't care after all. A personal glimpse into the life of the artist, Björk's vocals on this song are layered over the beats and synths masterfully produced by herself andArca. Mind you, this album is a statement. She's sharing credits with Kanye's West's producer, Arca, but apart from his fractured beats, it is Björk's vocals that play an instrument of their own with the electronica put in it for effect. This is followed by a very short History Of Touches, documenting the physical intimacy she shared with the man over time.
It is in the over 10-minute long Black Lake, that Björk finally finds release. For a fan, this album is a departure from what most feel is techno-babble. If the singer/songwriter in Björk, hasn't sunk in yet, Black Lake will let you in on it. At the centre of the album, this concoction of intimate thoughts and notes, orchestrations and EDM laced beats difficult to piece together in the first place, bring the best Arca, The Haxan Cloak, and Björk have brought to this album. The Haxan Cloak, her other co-producer makes his presence felt in the form of slow-motion bass beats and distinct orchestrations, but it is a Björk album through and through.
The rest of the album from here takes a hopeful turn. Between lyrics of heartbreak, pain, loss, desertion and hope, Björk takes the listener to the brink of something positive but stops right at the edge. It is beautiful to see someone who's always had a different take on music get personal, but then it is difficult too. Björk's genius throughout her career has always hinged on the awkward delivery of rather bionic sounds and beats. The inclusion of technology isn't missed, but the soul she wants to put back into the genre stems from a very hurt and damaged part of her being, and it rather painful for anyone to listen to.
Vocals and beats in an uncommon time signature work best for Björk, and in the rare case where chaotic life imitates ambitious art, Vulnicura stands as a testament to the transition her very electronic sound has undergone over the past year. Don't expect notes and lyrics that have worked magic in the past; this is raw, simple and sometimes even mediocre by Björk's standards. What turns that mediocrity into excellence is the work and soul gone into it. Pick up a copy if you're heartbroken and want to take a walk on the dark side and back with Björk. She's always taken me on a journey, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the ride.