Thursday, March 05, 2015

New : Bjork - 'Vulnicura'

Hooray! A new Bjork album!!! At least that was my initial reaction upon seeing 'Vulnicura' pop up on the new release lists a fortnight ago, leaping forth to purchase a copy without even giving it the once over in playback beforehand (she's decided not to put it on Spotify). Then I realised that I hadn't actually bothered listening to any of her new material for roughly fifteen years, 'Vespertine' only creeping onto my radar as a sidenote after her post 90s identity shift left me a little less enamoured that I was when her earliest space pixie offerings were doing the rounds. I'm not gonna apologise for zoning out all that time - I haven't listened to any new Cradle of Filth since the early 00s either, a man can only take in so much - but I was keen to see where she'd got to since we'd last spent time together. 'Vulnicura' was apparently crafted on the back of her recent divorce which by all accounts wasn't a particularly easy one - she's split with fellas before but this one sounds like it's been tough to bounce back from and she's on wincingly frank form here to pick apart the smouldering wreckage of perhaps one failed romance too many. Producers have always played a big part in her sound and this time round she's got abstract museum indie knob-twiddler The Haxan Cloak providing the sonic backdrop, a fitting match up as the sparse fittings he provides here complement the bare emotional content nicely to forge an end product that hits home hard. I'd previously pegged Haxan as another one of those Quietus style acts, all whiteout bleepcore with lyrics about eating your own flesh and stuff like that but here he finally starts making sense, the anxious minimalist approach filling in the lines nicely between Bjork's stark vocal performances. She dissects with unflinching precision here, combing over every trauma response with an honesty that borders on the uncomfortable - this is less of a 'Fuck him! I'll find someone better!' record and more of a forlorn rumination over whether the one great love is actually out there after all. Imagine one of your mum's mates opening up after going three glasses of wine to everyone else's one at a party and then dishing up more than you'd ordered to explain why her marriage fell apart, although Bjork's delivery retains the perplexing elegance that has become her trademark - as deeply as the lyrics resonate with you you're never totally sure what she's on about and it's the emotion in her voice that leads you to the conclusion she's left waiting. Lush orchestral opener 'Stonemilker' sets things up for a pleasant enough Sunday morning listen but we're quickly in more challenging territory, Haxan drawing back the strings and danceable electronic elements like a merciless bailiff removing furniture to leave you sat on the bones of your arse for the rest of the album as Bjork leads you through the autopsy of her marriage with little else to dilute the brew. 'History of Touches' feels like an aftershock to the physical highs of a love affair whilst 'Family' wriggles its way through edgy string interjections with a mixture of cooing closeness and heartbroken solace and the ten awkward minutes of 'Black Lake' sound like they should come with a team of lawyers and a thick prescription pad in tow. Anthony Hegerty provides the album's only cameo on 'Atom Dance' with admirable discretion, trading in the same currency as his host to enthralling effect and the scattershot bleepshower of 'Mouth Mantra' takes her briefly back to the days of 'Homogenic' albeit in a half-concious reverie where the characteristic elements return as misrememerbed fragments. Closer 'Quicksand' offers neither reconciliation nor retreat, almost as if she's looking back on 1993's 'The Anchor Song' with two decades of additional experience, no less a romantic than she was back then but bearing the wisdom of age that requires a new soundtrack of its own. Long term acolytes will flood to this as they would any other release from the Icelandic icon but 'Vulnicura' also has enough to rope in those who'd strayed from the shepherd over the years - this isn't just a comfortable reminder that Bjork is still doing it, it's a wide angle depiction of just how far removed from the pack she's always been. 

Check out : the trailer for 'Black Lake' which hints that this project is far from complete.