Björk: Lionsong (Vulnicura Strings Version)
Though Björk just released the final installment of remixes for her heartbreak album Vulnicura, she’s not done yet reworking the dense layers of material. The Icelandic heroine will be releasing an “acoustic” version of the full LP, featuring new sonic point-of-views, violin solos and a unique instrument called the Viola Organista (an instrument designed by Leonardo da Vinci but built after his time; apparently there’s only one in the world and it’s in Krakow, Poland). “It became one of the most magical thing both musically and spiritually to unite the electronics and the acoustic instruments in an almost romantic way : to prove they can coexist !” wrote Björk of working on Vulnicura. “but while working on it i felt somehow for the first time , this was an album that could take another version : a reveal.” The techno-free string adaption of “Lionsong”—still featuring her soaring vocals—shows not only how timeless Björk’s music can be, but how powerful it is with only a few stringed instruments.
James Blake: The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel Cover)
“Hello darkness, my old friend / I’ve come to talk with you again”: the iconic lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s timeless 1964 hit “The Sound of Silence” are now sung by James Blake in a cover version. He ended his two-hour BBC Radio 1 Residency show this week with the tune, saying on air, “I think when Paul Simon and Garfunkel wrote this, they said something along the lines of, it was about the breakdown of communication. And one New Year’s Eve, I had a friend of mine sadly pass away and previous to that, the things he had been saying to me sounded like an attempt to reach out to people. I thought that after that happened, this seemed to be the only song that could represent how I felt at the time. So this song is dedicated to Ryan.” Blake’s contemporary rendition prominently features his trademark choral harmonies plus what sounds like an ambient recording.
Vulfpeck: Funky Duck
Funk band with a sense of humor Vulfpeck reached internet fame last year with “Sleepify,” an album made up of nothing but silent tracks and released on Spotify. Asking fans to play it on repeat before going to bed, the band ended up making around $19,655 for 5.5 million plays (roughly $0.005 per play) before Spotify removed it after seven weeks; Vulfpeck used the funds to support a tour of entirely free shows around the US. Their non-silent tracks, however, are also worth repeat sessions—and the band has just released their first full-length: the self-produced Thrill of the Arts. Watch the band have the best time playing in their music video for “Funky Duck,” (featuring the talented Antwaun Stanley behind the mic) as one YouTube commenter puts it: “A big funky sound straight outta grandma’s living room.”
Zhu feat. Gallant: Testarossa Music
Distinguishing himself from the boatload of star EDM producers, the ever-enigmatic Zhu breaks a few rules—first off, by staying largely anonymous, even when performing—and his recent Genesis Series, launched in September, is exemplary of that. He’s thus far dropped tracks every week featuring the likes of AlunaGeorge and A-Trak, and the most recent “Testarossa Music” is his most elegant and minimalist yet. LA-based R&B singer Gallant’s vocals and melody are reminiscent of Mariah Carey’s in that ’00s duet “I Know What You Want” with Busta Rhymes. Stay tuned for more collaborations from the project including Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Skrillex.
Rizzla: Iron Cages / Twitch Queen
“There’s only so much longer that dance music can be apolitical. Producers and DJs are going to have to start acknowledging the injustices in our society,” said Brooklyn-by-way-of-Boston producer Rizzla—and one of the founders of queer artist collective #KUNQ—in an interview last year with Cakes Da Killa. His debut Iron Cages EP (off of Fade to Mind) illustrates his restlessness and emotionality. Rizzla’s video mix of two tracks from his EP, “Iron Cages / Twitch Queen,” is made up of more than a hundred YouTube clips of political riots, police violence, rocket launches and explosions, and cuts deep: there can be no room for apathy here.