Release Date: 08.28.01
Record label: wea / elektra
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.
by: peter naldrett - u.k. correspondent
Previous Bjork releases have seen the eccentric Icelandic star recording music in public toilets and adding vocals deep inside an echoing cave. But on Vespertine, her fourth solo album, she swaps the earthly sounds and adopts an ethereal, heavenly approach that gives the CD a different kind of beauty than that enjoyed by Debut, Post and Homogenic.
The harps, celeste, surreal harmonies, backing choirs and angelic percussion have all been hinted at before, not least in her early Icelandic jazz recording Gling Glo, but they have never been so intense as on Vespertine, a collection of 12 mature and well crafted songs.
The first single, "Hidden Place," is typical of the album in general in that it takes its time, is hypnotic and dares to enter territory that most mainstream artists would not feel comfortable in. Heavenly bells can be heard on the instrumental "Frosti," a brilliantly atmospheric chorus on "It's Not Up To You" and visual images pop into your head when listening to "Aurora" that could place you right in her homeland watching the Northern Lights.
Vespertine, her first solo release since the critically acclaimed Homogenic in 1997, has a literal meaning relating to the evening, and the theme of dark nights in a cozy, comfortable place is the theme that Bjork has tried to explore here.
She explained: "The album's very much about being alone in your house in a very quiet, introverted mood."
To this end, she succeeds. Vespertine is a great album to be locked away with when you're feeling low or wanting to relax in peace and quiet. But the focus on the extremities of Bjork's ethereal qualities also means that previous "pop" moments like "Army Of Me," "It's Oh So Quiet" and "Human Behaviour" are shut out for good, lost in time. This is a different Bjork, an even more eccentric one, if that could be possible.
In the time between this and her last solo work, Bjork's success has continued as she switched attention to acting in her big screen debut, Dancer In The Dark. A remarkable film, it earned her an Oscar nomination awards at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as another successful album in the Selma Songs soundtrack. In fact, the artwork for the album cover features an etching of the infamous swan that first appeared with Bjork when she turned up at this year's Oscars ceremony.
Now having lost some of her cockney accent but still sounding like an alien who has landed and is yet to master the art of regional dialogue, it is easy to wonder how Bjork has got where she has by producing the far-out, individual music that has seen her arrive at Vespertine. The answer is that Bjork is a musical genius who puts her visions and dreams before critical success or album sales, and this is a quality evident on all her CDs. Every project Bjork touches turns to gold, and this is no exception.