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Björk Vespertine album cover
4.00 | 129 ratings | 11 reviews | 33% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hidden Place (5:28)
2. Cocoon (4:28)
3. It's Not Up To You (5:08)
4. Undo (5:38)
5. Pagan Poetry (5:14)
6. Frosti (1:41)
7. Aurora (4:39)
8. An Echo, A Stain (4:04)
9. Sun In My Mouth (2:40)
10. Heirloom (5:11)
11. Harm Of Will (4:36)
12. Unison (6:47)

Total time 55:34


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Björk Guðmundsdóttir / bassline (1,5,7,9), arrangements: choir (1,3,4), harp (3,5,7,12) & music box (5-7), vocal editing (4,11), programming (2,5,12), drum programming (7,9), producer

- Guy Sigsworth / clavichord & arrangement (3), celesta & arrangement (8,9,11), choir arrangement (1,8,12), programming (1,8,12)
- Vince Mendoza / orchestration (1,3,8,9,11,12), choir (1,3,8,11) & string (3,4,8,9,12) arrangements
- Damian Taylor / programming (1,12), drum programming (7,8)
- Jake Davies / programming (1,5), drum programming (7)
- Matmos / programming (1,12), drum programming (7,8)
- Matthew Herbert / programming (1,12)
- Thomas Knak / programming (2,4)
- Marius De Vries / programming (5,7,8)
- Martin "Console" Gretschmann / programming (10)
- Valgeir Sigurdsson / drum programming (3,9,12)
- Caryl Thomas / harp (3)
- Zeena Parkins / harp & arrangement (3,4,7,9,12)
- St. Paul's Cathedral Choir / chorus (12) - not confirmed
- John Scott / choir conductor (12) - not confirmed

Releases information

Artwork: M/M (Paris) with Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin (photo)

2xLP One Little Indian - TPLP101 (2001, UK)

CD One Little Indian - TPLP101CD (2001, UK)

Thanks to chris s for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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BJÖRK Vespertine ratings distribution

(129 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(33%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

BJÖRK Vespertine reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Yes, well again this marked the trio of albums that places Bjork in a prog category. Expanding from Homogenic into a more strings, mood based singularity of sounds, Vespertine was adventurous to say the least. Not as emphatic musically as it's predecessor but certainly a catalyst for the exceptional follow up Medulla.

As another reviewer suggests this is almost an album of two qualitative halves. The first half being exceptional and borderline masterpiece, the second half loses direction at times and is less convincing, quite bemusing to this reviewer that the consistency of the album does not hold up so well. " Hidden Place" kicks off the album and it is mysterious, sensual and plain beautiful. An accompanying video will add wonderment to the experience. " Cocoon" and " Pagan Poetry" also mark highlights to the album and became firm fan favorites on selection of a future compilation release for Bjork.

The second half of the album is OK and the new trademark sound continues, it just seems to be missing that inviting " Hook" one gets to expect with Bjork material. " Sun In My Mouth" has Bjork streching the boundaries again as does the interesting " Harm Of Will". I like this album a lot and it is a worthy three and a half stars but it is not quite up there with Medulla or Homogenic. Both those albums broke new territory, this was the wafer in between.

Review by 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.

Review by russellk
5 stars "Electronic folk music", said BJORK about 'Vespertine'. My understanding of folk music was that it wasn't a specific sound, but a method of preserving communal truths. On 'Vespertine' we can hear more of what it means to be human than in virtually any other place.

It's that, yes, but so much more than that. 'Vespertine' contains the essence of BJORK's gift to the world: finally, with sweet, ethereal music and that naive yet knowing voice she carves us up with beauty. Naive, for she sounds like a child; knowing, for she pens lyrics arresting in their frankness. In 'Cocoon' she sings, without any apology: He slides inside / half awake, half asleep / we faint back / into sleephood / when I wake up / the second time / in his arms / gorgeousness / he's still inside me... This is love, not pornography, a baring of her soul. How fortunate we are that there are some among us who can say things like this, can express the joys and the longings of being human, and make the result so compelling.

This fragile message is delivered with delicacy, BJORK employing harps, celestes, strings, clavichords and angelic choirs as her messengers. Gone are the overpowering glitch beats of '5 Years' from her previous album. Instead we get a succession of heavenly moments when the clouds of mundane humanity peel back and rays of pure bliss pour through like supernatural invaders. I point to the beauty of 'Hidden Place' with its Schoenbergian ascending melody in the chorus drenching us like a blessing; of 'Cocoon' and the unbearable sweetness of her breath-laden voice (to have someone sing like that of anyone else, with such intimacy, how can we not be moved?); of the choir in 'Aurora', the unbearable ache of estranged lovers in 'Unison' as the music and lyrics climax together... the simplicity, the beauty. There isn't a track here that does anything less than shine.

Aside from the beauty and humanity, I'm drawn back to this music because of its complete freedom from the cynicism engendered by the music industry. At this stage of their careers bands like PINK FLOYD had nothing left to write about but anger against their fans and the insides of hotel rooms, but BJORK has a keen eye and is never, ever afraid to tell us what she sees. God forbid - and I mean this - god forbid she was ever to meet me. I don't know if I could bear the scrutiny.

Many of the musicians on the pages of PA are journeymen, doomed by their narrow training and lack of imagination or honesty to repeat the sounds of their past. BJORK is an innovator, an experimenter, an artist, always reaching for more; and I for one am glad she is here, whether she sounds proggy or not.

Review by Prog Sothoth
5 stars This is one of those special albums where adjectives I use to describe it aren't exactly the norm concerning descriptions of music. To relay an example...Vespertine glistens. I mean this album glows, shimmers and radiates a cold white light. Another thing this level of quality brings out is the occasional bizarre adjective that doesn't even make sense. In this case, for some reason the term "icy warmth" keeps popping up as to how I would convey the emotions and atmosphere that Vespertine engulfs the listener so successfully. I know..."icy warmth'? But yeah...there it is. Listening to some of these tracks is like roaming through immense ice castles guided by a mischievous cute pixie. This is the sort of journey I can dig.

Vespertine begins with a flat out jaw-dropper with the majestic Hidden Place. A swirling array of choirs, strings, some odd percussion and chilly keyboards combine with Bjork's distinct and emotionally bare voice gently latched on to my mind and sent me to the clouds over Iceland. The chorus is absolutely magnificent, soaring to the stratosphere yet equally intimate. I've never heard a better song by her. Already it's quite clear this album is progressive.

Cocoon follows, a much gentler affair with excellent fragile vocals emitting pure sensuality with a bit of coyness. It's Not Up to You brings back the lushness, especially for that great chorus (nice hook!). In fact, throughout this album, there's a definite theme not just in its message, but concerning the musical instruments themselves. Harps, ethereal choirs, and orchestration add such an incredible layer of beauty to the cold electronics, and, combined with Bjork's emotional delivery, gave off this aura that I still consider "icy warmth". This aura never leaves for the album's duration, with no dud to be found ruining the flow.

Other highlights include the epic concluding Unison, possessing one of Bjork's most creative vocal deliveries and one fantastic crescendo towards the song (and album's) finale, and the gorgeous yet haunting and borderline dark An Echo, A Stain. Even the short instrumental Frosti is essential.

This album is seamless and has a singular vision that is magical, spacey, chilly, atmospheric and without a doubt extremely progressive. Essential.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team
5 stars Though I have been blown away by almost everything I've seen and heard from Miss Björk since her days with the Sugarcubes, this is my favorite album of hers. To my mind (and ears) this is the one that establishes and maintains the highest caliber of innovative creativity.

1. "Hidden Place" (5:28) is an all-time classic, one of Björk's signature tunes. Great performed live. (9/10)

2. "Cocoon" (4:28) Besides all the clicks and pops going on in the background, this song is an incredibly sensuous vocal/voice on display--breathing and all! (8/10)

3. "It's Not Up to You" (5:09) is blessed with a chorus section that just sucks you in and leaves you begging for more. Wonderful effect of harp, strings, glockenspiel, woodwinds and female choral b-vox. (9/10)

4. "Undo" (5:39) is my personal favorite from this album. Brilliant use of voice, effects and space; percussion and keys, and, later, orchestration and female chorale. (9/10)

5. "Pagan Poetry" (5:15) is another absolutely unforgettable Björk song. All instruments seem to be used percussively yet weave into a flowing tapestry like water--thanks to lead and background vocals. Such an emotional delivery from the divine Miss B. (9/10)

6. "Frosti" (1:42) is an absolutely gorgeous, mature 'music box' solo. Wow! Who'd have thunk it possible? (10/10)

7. "Aurora" (4:39) begins as if a badly scratched record is playing. Björk and the 'music box' join in before bass and programmed drums join. Beautiful harp work accompanies Miss B throughout most of the middle of the song--even getting some solo attention around the 2:25 mark. High praise for this motion-felt song. (9/10)

8. "An Echo a Stain" (4:04) is a spacey, futuristic-sounding free-flowing piece that barely ever goes anyplace, just keeps you floating in limbo, like a Stanley Kubrick film. (6/10)

9. "Sun in My Mouth" (2:40) brings back the 'music box' and computer bass--and, later, harp and orchestra--to accompany the singer on a beautiful journey through the here and now--so much sensual imagery in the lyrics! (9/10)

10. "Heirloom" (5:12) opens with an upbeat computerized drum/percussion sequence. (I'm reminded of ANNETTE PEACOCK's Sky Skating.) Synths join in before bass and Björk enter. The lighter mood is refreshing. (8/10)

11. "Harm of Will" (4:37) begins with tear-jerkingly beautiful orchestration, over which Miss B's exquisite vocalizations join. It is, however, the continuous play of the orchestra strings that keeps me glued to this song. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS would love this! (10/10)

12. "Unison" (6:47) starts rather starkly before some rather upbeat, child-ish, (I'm reminded of JACQUES BREL) instruments and melodies join the singer. Once the drum and bass beat are established--and the background choir--the song becomes quite charming. Matter of fact, on this one it is the choir work--and orchestral strings--that steal the show. Great vocal performance during the second half from Miss B. (9/10)

One of the things I love about Björk is she, her music, her voice, her lyrics, are unlike anyone else. There really aren't many artists like this. Fellow Iceland-born Sigur Rós, Argentina's Factor Burzaco and maybe Karda Estra, Magma, The Mars Volta, and Toby Driver are a few of the others that come to mind who also fit this "unlike anyone else" category. Kudos, Miss Björk. A five star masterpiece of unique and innovative music. A musical ride you better strap yourself in for. Also, worth checking out are any of Björk's concert DVDs. Breath-taking!

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
3 stars "Vespertine"'s album cover features Bjork hiding her face and the swan is superimposed to remind us of THAT dress. Her pixie image has never been more indelible as she shies away from convention totally to produce some of the more unsettling compositions, reflecting a disturbing moment in her career after shaking off stalkers, reporters and the media. The lyrics have always been on the edge but here she dwells on the mournful side of life, the hopelessness of unrequited love, the thoughts of escape, decisions to move on, and the blissful ignorance of betrayal. Bjork sounds cynical but intimate and reflective, and bravely moves into many styles of singing, from sustained cries to breathy whispers. It is a cold, wintery album with dripping icicles, footsteps in the snow, chilling wind chimes, cold breath on a frosty window, and icy lyrics. I rank this as among her best to this point in her career. It begins with some of her best compositions but tends to fade towards the end.

She launches wonderfully into 'Hidden Place' which is quite a dramatic Bjork composition, with very nice synth motifs and a haunting melody. It sounds more like a radio oriented single than a lot of the material on this quirky album. The album houses some of Bjork's most daring and weird music. The odd electronic percussion sounds and breathy voice on 'Cocoon' is perhaps the new direction for Bjork who is gearing towards her weirdest era ever, that will be realised on the downright bizarre "Medulla" in 2004.

The unsettling squelchy percussion continues on 'It's Not Up To You', and minimalist chimes. It is quite effective and Bjork sounds very melancholy and deranged in an endearing way.

The struggles of coping are reflected in 'Undo', with overlayed vocals and dark music orchestration. She sings with pain, "I am praying to be in a generous mood, kindness kind, to share, it's not meant to be a struggle up here." An interesting and intense song with angelic ending as if she has found peace; it almost feels like the voice of Selma from "Dancer in the Dark". Perhaps the film had some impact as her inspiration here.

'Pagan Poetry' is a very popular song, heard in live sets often, and it is easy to see why as it is definitive Bjork. The chiming harp music is beautiful, balanced by the deep bass synths and Bjork's measured rhythmic vocals. She sings coldly of dark secrets, "five fingers form a pattern yet to be matched on the surface implicity, from the darkest pit in me." I like the way Bjork sings with so much passion here and never holds back on snarling out hatred, and then her voice is mixed to the front and sounds raw and wracked in pain, "I love him I love him I love him I love him." A haunting highlight of "Vespertine".

'Frosti' has more sparkling chimes than usual, sounding like wind chimes and I guess like snowflakes dropping out of the winter sky. Bjork likes to convey childlike innocence with the use of musical boxes, clavichords and harps on her albums but she really immerses her music in the chimes on this album. It is a nice sound after all the dark nuances and Bjork's vocals are absent, though it would have been nice to hear something to add to the sound.

This merges seamlessly into 'Aurora' with Bjork's voice and an effect that may represent walking in the snow. Her voice is beautiful as she reaches the angelic high register with vocal intonations. The lyrics focus on the twilight of day, the aurora that sparkles and shoots beyond the surface, when the sun hits the cold air and causes the ripples of colour, reflecting her state of mind, the ray in the dark in the midst of turmoil.

'An Echo A Stain' has an atmospheric sound like a deranged swampy nightscape, weird frog and cricket sounds and an eerie wind howl. It is very effective to convey loneliness and alienation. Bjork sings huskily and quietly, "feel my breath on your neck, on your heart, don't say no to me, I won't see you tonight, I'm sorry you saw that." The music is quite ominous and the vocals are given a weird reverberation at times like an echo, but this is a dark song with sonic weirdness that Bjork will capitalise on with subsequent albums.

The chimes continue to dominate on 'Sun In My Mouth' and the poetry is quite beautiful. The orchestral arrangement works nicely giving a cinematic feel and Bjork's vocal range is stretched to the highest register and she sounds beautiful in these moments. After this 'Heirloom' has a strong percussion and string pads to house Bjork's vocals. She sings of memories, of things her mother baked for her, "while I'm asleep my mother comes and pours warm glowing oil into my wide open throat, everytime I feel a hoarseness I swallow warm glowing light, you make me feel so much better". Quite a nice song really with some odd sections of electronica.

'Harm of Will' is a quiet Bjork song with strings, chimes and no percussion. Bjork's overlayed breathing is soothing as is her gentle singing. Cetainly this breathy effect will be used on her next studio album, particularly on 'Pleasure Is All Mine'. The content of the song sounds rather disturbing about a secret sexual encounter, with consent as it appears, "he placed her unclothed, on top of the family tree, And if he has chosen the point while she is under him, Then leave her coily placed crouched sucking him, for it is I with her on knee." The "family tree" has phallic connotations, and may represent the act of placing an angel at the top of a Christmas tree. The song goes on to say that "he controls what there'll be, he makes his face known to none" to discard what had been done, the secret unrevealed to protect his reputation after the deed. Some research reveals that the song is actually about Will Oldham, a lover of Harmony Korine who wrote the lyrics. The album closes with 'Unison', with an upbeat rhythm that has more hope than other songs here, but not one of my favourites.

"Vespertine" is a very melancholy and icy cold winter album, and it is apparent that Bjork is shedding her skin of any radio friendliness to embrace a very cold stark approach with darker atmospheres and weirdness. She dwells on dark emotions, sadness and the futility of abuse. This breaking down of musical barriers will alienate some fans and of course draw in others. "Medulla" will further cause division as Bjork embarks on her most daring provocative album ever (hear 'Where Is The Line', 'Who Is It', 'Ancestors', 'Mouth's Cradle', 'Midvikudags' and 'Submarine' to experience the most bizarre Bjork). In any case, "Vespertine" is a great album to chill out to with Icelandic scapes of winter's chill. 3 and a half stars due to the great opening tracks.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Programmed music, intriguing voice and respectable originality. I do not know much about Björk´s universe, their eccentricities and their origins. And until recently I found unattractive dive into her discography. Some songs of this artist are considered within the Alternative Dance or Trip-Ho ... (read more)

Report this review (#1156653) | Posted by sinslice | Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Verspertine is definitely one of Björk's more private and intimate releases. The album is generally concerned with seclusion and as some other reviewers stated, there are plenty of crafty arrangements that play a part in creating dark, mysterious moods, including sampled objects to create bea ... (read more)

Report this review (#572740) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Tuesday, November 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album suprised me, but it also made me a little annoyed as well. This is one of those albums that falls into the catergory, amazing start, weak ending. I really meant it, the first 6 songs I was like, "holy crap, this redefining music," then after that I was like, "ok, maybe not so much ... (read more)

Report this review (#347659) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It seems incredibly now, but at the time of VESPERTINE's release, the same critics who pronounced HOMOGENIC a masterpiece uniformly found VESPERTINE a disappointment. In truth, while HOMOGENIC was on the cutting-edge of electronic music at the time, VESPERTINE did not depart from the earlier soun ... (read more)

Report this review (#344536) | Posted by jude111 | Monday, December 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Of all of Bjork's musical output so far I rank the collection of songs on VESPERTINE are amongst her very best. "Magical" seems like a cliched description to attach on music like this, but for VESPERTINE it is as appropriate a word than any other musical experience I can think of. The percussive ... (read more)

Report this review (#340663) | Posted by catfood03 | Thursday, December 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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