Release Date: Nov 6, 2015
Record label: Embassy of Music
Genre(s): Electronic, Classical, Avant-Garde
In discussing Vulnicura’s instrumentation, Björk spoke of her desire to forge an almost romantic union of electronic and acoustic counterparts. The album itself was a dark and sticky document of romantic disengagement. It’s fitting then that in this new interpretation, only one half of the musical partnership remains, leaving the acoustic portion standing alone.
This is great. Vulnicura in its original guise is easily Björk’s most solemn record, and probably her strongest album since Homogenic. This orchestral rearrangement of the album actually reveals a sharper, more acidic base layer to the original, with some wonderfully large arrangements. The press sheet mentions an old instrument designed (originally) by Leonardo Da Vinci, but really that’s to focus on the story, not the music; in this instance it’s a news hook and one that’s not essential to an assessment/enjoyment of the music.
Orchestral strings always seem to go rather well with heartache. Arguably the first ever break-up album, Frank Sinatra‘s In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning, saw Nelson Riddle’s arrangements have as much of an emotional impact as Ole Blue Eyes’ voice. On Beck‘s finest moment, Sea Change, his father David Campbell was responsible for some desperately sad string arrangements.
As a remix evangelist, Björk has always celebrated the mutable quality of her work. "To me it goes all the way back to being in the Sugarcubes and Kukl before," she told Britain's Independent. She described how Iceland's half-arsed indie scene was suddenly electrified by the arrival of acid house: "Going to all those first raves, it was really obvious that there wasn't really one correct way of doing a song." That notion reached a peak on 2011's Biophilia, where, if the mood struck, Björk could have dispatched endless revisions of the record to the corresponding app (which always sounded more like a Synecdoche, New York-style nightmare than a healthy creative impulse).
There are certain people, records and places that have such a consuming mood you can’t spend unlimited time with them, so immersive is the experience. For me, one such place is the Rothko room at London’s Tate Modern, a space to be visited alone where you’re guaranteed a silence to sit and think in. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly disorientating experience being there, it’s dimly lit and the art on its walls seeps into you, suggesting sadness and loss and time standing still.