By Cory Zydyk
Bjork’s newest album “Vulnicura” deals with heartbreak and loss, and learning how to deal with those two powerful emotions. As far as Bjork albums go, it feels like the apotheosis of her music. With “Vulnicura”, Bjork has seemingly reached her artistic ideal. The music is lush. Strings swirl symphonically over hollow sounding electric beats. The lyrics, as always, are fiercely unafraid – intimate poems that feel as primal as they are beautiful. Primal beauty describes most of Bjork’s art; Bjork is an artist that feels like she just sprung right out of the rivers and woods of Iceland. She is an artist that seems to straddle two worlds: the natural and the human.
The music on “Vulnicura” feels broken, like her soul was ripped out of her body and subsequently transplanted into my earbuds. It’s fantastic stuff, but as much as it relates heartbreak as an enclosed state of being with lyrics like: “our love was my womb but our bond has broken, my shield is gone, my protection is taken, I am one wound in my pulsating body”, it is also clawing, reaching, grasping. “Vulnicura” grapples with the terrible feeling of one day having someone there with you, an intimate warm body, a communicator, friend, lover; and the next day, or next week being alone. The music is searching for that lost connection; the string section seems to reach out like lonely fingers grasping for someone who is not there, and who will never be there again.
In a way, that is what art is – a search for connection. The artist produces art to connect with people, or to commentate upon some kind of human condition. The consumer of art connects with a certain artwork or form and will feel a little less lonely, knowing that someone out there created the art they love and there are other people who connect with it as well. Bjork is an artist that has always taken connection one step further; her art is holistic – it seeks a connection with the natural world and technology as much as it seeks a connection with the human.“Biophilia”, her last release is a great example of her holistic artistic view. The album deals directly with the connection between humanity and the natural world it springs from. Songs like “mutual core” conflate not only connections between human and human but between human and nature:
“I shuffle around the tectonic plates in my chest/ You know I gave it all trying to match our continents /To change seasonal shift to form a mutual core /As fast as your fingernail grows the Atlantic ridge drifts/ To counteract distance, you know I gave it all /Can you hear the effort of the magnetic strife?/ Shuffling of columns to form a mutual core”
“Biophilia” was the first album to be released in app form. Nature, humanity and technology all coalesced on one singular work of music. There are many symbolic consequences to releasing music that focuses on humanity and nature on a medium that essentially negates that connection.
Technology has connected people in ways just a short time ago no ordinary person dreamt possible. Social media has done things like connect long lost relatives or friends, to sparking huge and important social movements like the Arab Spring and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. There is no denying that technology has served a positive and often pivotal role in this young century. But there is a dark-side to any story. Social-media and technology has also caused the privatization of our lives. More than ever before, we go home after school or work and spend our time sitting at our computers – texting, and watching, but not partaking in any ‘real’ forms of communication. Instead communicating with virtual personalities of our friends or people we know; or in some cases with complete strangers who send us random ‘likes’.
“Biophilia” seems to offer a new way to use technology. Technology as a tool to relate, to discover. Not only music and art, but to connect with nature as well. “Biophilia” is an album that unlike “Vulnicura” has found symbiosis. In “Vulnicura”, Bjork is left cold and desolate – grasping for connection once more. There is no solace for the broken heart in technology. The answers for Bjork will lie in what we all feel we need to do more of. We need to spend more time with family and friends, we need to go for a walk in nature and discover where we come from, we need to create art and share it. In short, we need to connect – not to our wifi, but to ourselves and others.
Cory Zydyk is a Victoria, B.C. based writer. He enjoys music, books, films and all the finest things life has to offer. He writes primarily about music and film. Find him on twitter @CoryZydyk or his blog: honeybadgerhoney.wordpress.com