A Song for Saturday: Bjork – Black Lake

I have a tenuous relationship with Bjork’s music. She released her ninth studio album, Vulnicura, meaning “Cure for Wounds” in January this year, and it’s certainly not a summery listen, but I’ve come to it late, so you’ll have to deal with this somewhat unseasonal choice.

The album is as conceptual as any of her previous work, dealing with the break-up of her long-term relationship with artist Matthew Barney. It is a work of deep emotional honesty and can be quite difficult to listen to at points. Thankfully the pain of the lyrics is matched by the beauty of the music, which signals at least a partial return to the “beats and strings” approach of her early albums, Debut and especially 1997’s Homogenic, which remains my favourite of hers.

(Incidentally, 1997 was probably the greatest single year for music since the 1970s.)

“Black Lake” is the dark heart of the album, which is so precisely linked to real-life events that many of the tracks have subtitles detailing the number of months before or after the break-up. 10 minutes long, it was written “two months after”, and bears the hallmarks of the stuttering beginnings of understanding and anger that swirl around at such a time.

The singer herself professes to be embarrassed by the track, and this quote sums up perfectly the feeling it creates as you listen to it:

It’s like, when you’re trying to express something and you sort of start, but then nothing comes out. You can maybe utter five words and then you’re just stuck in the pain. And the chords in-between, they sort of represent that. […] We called them “the freezes,” these moments between the verses. They’re longer than the verses, actually. It’s just that one emotion when you’re stuck. It is hard, but it’s also the only way to escape the pain, just going back and having another go, trying to make another verse.

The film made to accompany the music is also characteristically beautiful and overwrought in equal measure.

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