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Björk - Vespertine CD (album) cover

VESPERTINE

Björk

 

Crossover Prog

3.96 | 92 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The sound of falling snow, icicles, and the real Bjork

On her previous album Homogenic, Bjork was trying way too hard and it showed. Despite a few very strong individual tracks that album was a noisy, unappealing disaster. This innately private and shy person was also having difficulty in the spotlight of fame, having tired of the bustle of England, and letting negativity flow into her work, her relationships, and her interaction with unfortunate reporters. She had retreated to Iceland to write this new album and was looking for simplicity, less noise, and a more honest reflection of herself. Originally to be titled "Domestica", Vespertine sought to be the real Bjork in her natural state. Her true state. She had recently discovered how to compose music on her new laptop, and she literally wrote this album walking on beaches, lounging beneath the moonlight of Iceland's night, disappearing into the scenery of volcanoes and glaciers. The results were stunning and miles above Homogenic. In my view Vespertine is her most rewarding work and of the five Bjork albums I own, it's the only one I truly enjoy all the way through. I could not sum it up any better than this quote:

"Where Homogenic had often been harsh and abrasive, Vespertine was warm and yielding. Intimate, introverted, and reveling in sonic possibility, this was the sensual musical exploration of self that Bjork had been longing to make...." -Ian Gittins, author of "Bjork - There's more to life than this"

The Winter album? While it's true that this album was intimate and warm in its relationship to the listener, the most incredible thing to me is the absolute creation of an original sound that can only be described as Winter. With the sounds, mood, and arrangements Bjork creates the sound of snow falling, icicles glittering, the visible breath exhalations of freezing temperatures. The album is draped in this sound, the result of composition and some formidable new weapons. She spent weeks working with a harpist named Zeena Parkins. She brilliantly painted the songs with choir vocals giving them a soft contrast to her typically bold and distinct personality. Sometimes she harmonizes with the choir, sometimes they are completely doing their own thing, but the effect is beyond beautiful in both cases. And most notable perhaps, she sent the songs to the experimental sound duo Matmos and asked them to color the songs with their ideas. Last, while the beats, electronica, and strings all returned, she noticeably softened everything up, including her own voice. Everything about Vespertine is more nuanced, subtle, and beautiful. The songwriting sounds less arbitrary and much more focused, she sounds like she believes in this material more than anything she has done before.

The songs are much more consistent and cohesive than previous efforts. The album flows very well and feels like a complete art experience. In "Cocoon" she brings us directly into her bed and shares details of her lovemaking with a vocal that stands among the most intimate you'll ever hear. The highlight for me is the short instrumental "Frosti" which serves as a prelude to the shimmering beauty "Aurora." The sounds of a glass music box slowly playing sparkling sounds that bring snow to your mind. Then in "Aurora" Matmos supplies sound "crackles" while Bjork croons to the skies in an ode to the northern lights. "Sun in My Mouth" is another favorite, pure musical opiate, soft voice, harp, and celeste. Other tracks have these delicate choral arrangements backing her vocal, in unison with the orchestral arrangements, to heavenly effect. At times she'll let these moments stretch out into trance-like sections that almost recall Sigur Ros in their meditative quality. She really tones down her usual feisty vocals in place of vocals that are serene, the effect is both relaxing and completely enchanting. Lyrically she pursues a similar vibe talking about the happier aspects of love, communing with nature, and the stabilizing force of home and domestic bliss. Some complain this album fades in the stretch like Homogenic, but I don't agree. The later tracks pack great reward even if they reveal themselves more slowly than some of the very immediate tracks.

When this album came out I procured a perfect condition large print of the beautiful album cover art. I had it framed and it hangs proudly on my living room wall next to the framed print of "Hounds of Love." But that's not the reason Vespertine is my second highest rated Bjork release. I love this album because if finally unites the talent and "strangeness" of Bjork with music that consistently speaks to the heart. It's an album that breathes, gives the music space, and places the mutual enjoyment of sound above being cool or edgy. It's humble, yet highly creative.

Finnforest | 4/5 |

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