Hand Björk a topic on Mastermind, give her a few weeks of research time, and she’d come back the most unchallengeable of experts. Zero holes spoil her theory and form of expression.
Previous LP ‘Biophilia’ was a bonkers attempt to detail Mother Nature in just under an hour. Follow-up ‘Vulnicura’ tackles a tougher topic: Heartbreak. As with anything else she entangles herself in, Björk doesn’t so much embrace the subject as become a part of it. Artwork shows a jet black, alien-like figure standing paralysed, her chest carved upon beyond repair. Bon Iver’s wood cabin saucy warbling is old fodder compared to this. Does the world need another break-up album? ‘Vulnicura’ dodges cliché and creates its own ground.
In the album’s liner notes, every song comes with a date, putting a timestamp on the brutal bust-up. “I better document this,” she sings on opener ‘Stone Milket’, and there couldn’t be a more thorough exploration of the soul’s most troubled subject. New lows are hit on the stop-start gruesome twist of ‘History of Touches’, the total combustion of ‘Notget’. Throughout, Venezuelan producer Arca executes scattered beats in collaboration with the Icelandic star, each dagger-sharp blow to the system sounding more real than the last. ‘Vulnicura’ is by no means Björk’s most groundbreaking work, but it’s arguably her most beautiful, undoubtedly the most close-to-heart. 2001’s ‘Vespertine’ was the counterpoint, another electronically-led, minimal record that detailed every heated-up moment of intimacy. Its arch nemesis was always going to be messy.
‘Vulnicura’ dodges cliché and creates its own ground.
Closer ‘Quicksand’ doesn’t hold back on the madness that precedes. It’s the final burst of frustration, a swift conclusion to an emotionally-fraught tale. ‘Vulnicura’ is a no-bullshit, unbelievably tough portrayal of an experience that shouldn’t require repeating. But on goes the cycle, ‘Quicksand’’s broken beats sounding incapable of stopping short. Dense to the extreme, a thick fog of emotions that concedes nothing, this is as uncompromising and potentially definitive as a break-up album could ever be.