Bjork is really treating her fans with this album round: following on from the marvellous original and the recent remix series, we now have a version of Vulcinara that strips everything back to just vocals and strings, with several new parts being recorded especially. Naturally the results are gorgeous. On One Little Indian.
Double LP £20.49 TPLP1317
180g vinyl gatefold LP on One Little Indian.
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CD £11.99 TPLP1317CD
CD on One Little Indian.
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The prospect of listening to a sparser version of this year’s most emotionally devastating record isn’t my idea of a great workday, but at least it’s not Sufjan a cappella, right? For ‘Vulnicura Strings’, Bjork subtly twists the tracklisting of her latter-day classic, doing away with the electronics and rushing past a recent slew of remix 12”s for what is essentially an acoustic record. As if you have any more feelings to spend.
There’s a very fixed sequencing binding together ‘Vulnicura’, so it’s curious to hear this record open with “Mouth Mantra”, a version rushing through interpolating string arrangements as Bjork’s voice breaks free of constriction. In reality, though, you can’t expect anything from this series of work: where “Stonemilker” might have set the tone as an opener to the original record, the record was marked by its disruptive, blunt transitions. It makes sense that a sparser version of this record would carry its own surprises, and it does: “Lionsong” sounds just as lost and tragic in its strings-only form, but without the urgency and displacement that its electronic additives gave it. ‘Vulnicura’ is a languishing and slow-moving record, but acoustically it sheds its bluster.
It’s “Black Lake” that I’m most curious about: a track constantly decaying and reincarnating through sudden beats, it’s here defined by its lack of punctuation: it drifts off and then returns seemingly out of nothing, trading silence with the serenity of Bjork’s string arrangements. The silences are as daunting as the instrumentation. Similarly, there's no march to "Stonemilker" other than the one we can already imagine: here the song feels repossessed as one, flatlining piece. On ‘Vulnicura’ Bjork claims she wanted to prove that electronic and acoustic musics could “tango” with one another: here, she’s still coupling together two distinct sounds, winding acoustic music around an absence we can hear, treating them as two separate entities that can strike with the same power.
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