Considering that most Björk fans seem to know that she began her recording career at the ripe old age of 11, and that she was once a member of The Sugarcubes, it’s curious why more attention hasn’t been paid to KUKL, the group she was in prior to joining Sugarcubes, especially since much of the membership of the two bands overlaps.
KUKL (which means “witchcraft” in Medieval Icelandic) was a sort of Icelandic super-group, comprised of members of several noteworthy bands and formed, at first, to perform on the final episode of a radio program in August 1983. The following month, KUKL played on the same bill with Crass in Reykjavik, at a punk festival that was the largest crowd that Björk had performed in front of at that point, and made a lasting connection with Crass.
KUKL released both The Eye, their Georges Bataille-inspired first album and the Penny Rimbaud-produced Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought) through Crass Records. Although their personal politics, in the main, were sympatico with the UK anarcho-punk movement’s ethos—the Icelanders remained dedicated meat eaters—their music was dissimilar, owing more to acts like The Cure, Killing Joke or Siouxsie and The Banshees and incorporating primitivist ethnographic and free jazz-influenced elements. Like Throbbing Gristle, KUKL took to the stage infrequently, preferring to wait until the time was right and their energy was at its fullest potential, with each show having an element of magic intentionally thrown into the mix.
During 1985, KUKL occasionally played at higher profile Europe concerts, opening for the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten and Psychic TV. Along with The Virgin Prunes, The Mantis Dance Company, writer Kathy Acker and others, they performed at Psychic TV’s “Feast of the Flowering Light” event at the Hammersmith Palais, but in 1986 KUKL split with most of the members going on to reform as The Sugarcubes a few months later.
KUKL left behind a handful of fascinating music videos:
A very pregnant Björk and KUKL on Icelandic television for an extended live performance in 1986.
“France (A Mutual Thrill) “