In Review: Björk’s Vulnicura Strings Stuns

The strings section of an orchestra and the feeling of heartbreak go hand-in-hand. As the strings are plucked or guided with a bow, the sweet sounds that flow can say more than words ever could.

With an album as heartbreaking as Björk’s Vulnicura, how could you not consider giving it the stripped back treatment?

Mouth Mantra sounds more sinister with the strings alone. As the vocals overlap the low pitched music, the dramatic tone creates a lush mix. In the original, the percussion and sound effects are fighting against the strings to be the instrumental focus of the song. Björk sings over the two opposing sections of music, battling  it out. The absence of the percussion entirely changes the atmosphere, from the middle of an external argument to an angry internal struggle.

In the original Lionsong, the beats run wild. It brings a lightness to the song that is washed away here, leaving a depressing, emotionally detached release, which the music exuding something so different to the lyrics. “Maybe he will come out of this loving me, maybe he won’t,” she ponders.

For the most part, Black Lake sounds almost exactly like the original. Low-pitched, slow start eventually traipses into a beautiful, graceful atmosphere. Here, the lack of percussion means that the emotion spreads itself out across the entire song. It presents itself as so much more emotionally invested in the lyrics, which are also given the spotlight.

Tonally and emotionally, the biggest differences are in Quicksand and Notget. Quicksand feels so, so much more raw with more of an emphasis put onto the lyrics. The original version is crowded with programming and percussion, giving it a truly tortured feel. While I feel this one fits the song’s storyline better, the clean and crisp new sound is so beautiful you can’t help but shed a tear. Notget is the only track where I prefer it to the original. In the space left by extra sounds, the vocals are pushed to centre stage.

Family is completely stripped back; even the vocals have been removed. The strings will pierce your ears like an alarm with sharp sounds, humming as the song builds. The final song, Black Lake (Viola Organista Version) is once again vocal-free. The rare viola organista, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, leads the pack with good control over its long notes and heavy pauses in all the right places. This song had something that I felt that the others were missing; a strong ending. Instead, they seemed to just fade away.

Overall, the strings version of Vulnicura is fantastic. Björk’s vocals combine perfectly with the sweet strings sounds, guiding an heartbreaking emotion directly to our souls. Pure, simple, beautiful.

Vulnicura Strings is available now on Pod via Inertia. Purchase it here.