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Björk - Vulnicura album review (published in Metro, Jan 2015)

Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

The way in which the release of Björk's ninth studio album has been hastily brought forward following an online leak feels slightly demeaning somehow, as if it's merely a new Beyonce or Miley Cyrus record.

It's very, very far from that: this is a work whose closest relations come from the avant garde (Balanescu, Nyman, Eno, Glass), rather than the Top 40. There are no party bangerz or radio-friendly pop hits here, nor anything as instant and simple as “It's Oh So Quiet” or “Violently Happy”. In fact, Vulnicura - a word which seems to exist nowhere outside of Björk-world - is perhaps the saddest record she has ever made. It's an album in which to luxuriate and lose yourself in contemplation, not one to whack on in the background and forget about.

Recorded with London-based Venezuelan producer Arca (Kanye West, FKA Twigs), it features classical strings gliding elegantly over jittery, glitchy electronic beats in a manner that will be familiar to anyone who's heard her last few albums (indeed, it was made using the same apps she developed for the Biophilia project). This dance between the human and the technical seems to echo the lyrics, at times: on opening track “Stone Milker”, she speaks of her wish to “find our mutual coordinates” and “synchronise our feelings”, as if love can be plotted and measured with the precision of maps and clocks.

The mood is summed up by ten-minute centrepiece “Black Lake”, an impossibly desolate post-mortem picking over the bones of a failed relationship. There's a resolution of sorts, however, in the romantic “Atom Dance”, which features the voice of Antony Hegarty, unmistakeable even when mangled through a vocoder. It's a cold universe, Björk's message seems to be, but happiness – if not the violent kind – is still possible.


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