Björk simplifies (for Björk) in “Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version)”

by Audrey Avril ’19

Riding on the release of her hit Vulnicura, Björk dives back into the album for Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version). The album was released November 6th (though you will have to wait until December 4th for the vinyl), and includes all the songs of Vulnicura, but this time with only strings, voice, and viola organista.

Vulnicura is a winding journey that borders on orchestral already, with strings often in the forefront of arrangements, so the fear that Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version) is just a simplified version of the original may be a legitimate worry. The drums and precise electronic distortions add a reverberating echo to Vulnicura that give it a grand sense of space and scale, so when those disappear, the sound will be noticeably smaller. In this respect, Vulnicura Strings does have a slightly more condensed range of sound, but on the whole the album provides an excellent addition to the original work.

It would be a distasteful rendition of the original Vulnicura if Björk considered “an acoustic version” as a lone acoustic guitar, a definition that seems to be the one used by many prominent artists, and often leads to watered-down versions of their original songs. Luckily, Björk, with her extensive musical experience and taste, has the skill to keep Vulnicura Strings an acoustic album as a complex, lush sound in its own right. Her style is ripe for the dizzying heights and wandering lulls of string instruments, so even without the drums beats and wayward chimes, it still sounds good, to say the least.

While this album does seem to simplify the tracks by tightening the ranks to just strings and Björk’s voice, this is not necessarily a bad thing. To its credit, it puts even greater emphasis on the interplay between Björk’s haunting but resolute voice and the strings. By subtracting the external instruments and echoes, the album becomes an ode to her voice and lyrics. On the acoustic version of “Lionsong,” the violins rise and fall with the lyrics so tightly and distinctly that you cannot help but be pulled along with each dizzying declaration by Björk.

All in all, if you enjoyed Vulnicura and are hungry for more, Vulnicura Strings: (The Acoustic Version) is definitely worth your time.