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BJÖRK

Crossover Prog • Iceland


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Björk biography
Björk Guðmundsdóttir is a singer/songwriter from Iceland, who has been both loved and hated during her long and multifaceted career. Writing and recording music since the '70s, she's become the face of her country and known to the whole world. Her music varies from new wave punk to experimental pop and even trip-hop and progressive pop. She has also composed music to movies and musicals and has also acted in several. There's no doubt Björk is one of the most influential female artists of modern music scene.

Björk recorded her first solo album in 1977 when she was only 11 years old. The album was simply named Björk, a collection of cover songs except for one that was her own composition. She quickly decided, that children's main stream was not what she wanted to do. Then soon, in the late '70s punk and new wave hit Iceland, and Björk as well. She was a singer in a group called Jam 80, which soon changed into Tappi Tikarrass, a band, that didn't concentrate on playing but mostly experimenting with instruments. Having recorded one record, the band broke up and the new
wave started to fade. Björk performed in a jazz band and recorded some songs with best known Icelandic musicians. Then she joined a supergroup of performers called Kukl.

Kukl recorded one album and did a tour in England, after which all of the musicians were so tired they had to take a long vacation. This offered Björk a chance to try out something else than punk or dark rock music. Kukl recorded one more album and toured with other punk bands after which they broke up in 1986. Later that year she recorded a duet with Gudlaugur Ottarsson, which was to mandate her first real solo album Debut. The musicians of Kukl kept in touch however, and in 1987 a label called Bad Taste was born. Under this label was soon to develop a band called Sugarcubes.

At 19 Björk made her acting debut in Nietzcha Keenes The Juniper Tree, and after 13 years she performed in Lars von Tiers Dancer in the Dark, after which she swore not to act ever again because of the emotionally stress of standing in someone else's shoes. Meanwhile Sugarcubes had become extremely successful, gaining one record as the single of week in 1987. The idea behind the band was to play through all the cliches they could put into pop-music. Apparently this was what the public wanted. The band was offered huge amounts of money for publishing rights, but they decided to take the joke further and signed in to a small unde...
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BJÖRK shows & tickets


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BJÖRK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

BJÖRK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

1.45 | 11 ratings
Björk Guðmundsdóttir
1977
2.88 | 16 ratings
Gling-Gló
1990
3.54 | 103 ratings
Debut
1993
3.43 | 91 ratings
Post
1995
3.68 | 115 ratings
Homogenic
1997
3.20 | 40 ratings
Selmasongs: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack 'Dancer In The Dark'
2000
3.96 | 93 ratings
Vespertine
2001
3.55 | 72 ratings
Medúlla
2004
1.60 | 16 ratings
The Music From Drawing Restraint 9
2005
2.60 | 46 ratings
Volta
2007
3.41 | 25 ratings
Biophilia
2011

BJÖRK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.13 | 8 ratings
Debut Live
2004
4.13 | 8 ratings
Post Live
2004
4.36 | 11 ratings
Homogenic Live
2004
4.20 | 10 ratings
Vespertine Live
2004

BJÖRK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.32 | 6 ratings
Volumen
1999
4.00 | 4 ratings
Live in Cambridge
2001
2.46 | 4 ratings
Live at Shepherds Bush Empire
2001
3.22 | 8 ratings
MTV Unplugged - MTV Live
2002
4.67 | 17 ratings
Vespertine Live at Royal Opera House
2002
3.14 | 3 ratings
Volumen Plus
2002

BJÖRK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
The Best Mixes From The Album Debut For All The People Who Don't Buy White Labels
1994
3.11 | 9 ratings
Telegram
1996
3.45 | 16 ratings
Greatest Hits
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Family Tree
2002
4.35 | 8 ratings
Voltaïc
2009
3.25 | 4 ratings
Bastards
2012

BJÖRK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Bachelorette Two
1997
4.00 | 2 ratings
Celebrating Wood And Metal
1997
3.50 | 2 ratings
Björk Live
2002
4.00 | 2 ratings
All Is Full Of Björk
2002

BJÖRK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Post by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.43 | 91 ratings

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Post
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I started checking out Bjork earlier this year and have been somewhat surprised to find how interesting her music is. I've always liked the female voice whether it was Barbara Streisand's, Linda Ronstadt's or Billie Holiday's but didn't encounter it to any extent in the progressive realm's heydays of the 60s and 70s so when courageous ladies like Bjork and Tori Amos appeared on the scene in the 90s I paid them little attention. But prog rock paints on a much wider canvas these days and it took me a while to accept that all progressive music isn't necessarily going to sound like Yes or Genesis or ELP. Once my horizons were broadened (thanks in no small part to this template-expanding website's existence) I realized that I'd only been limiting myself by not giving the younger proggers a fair listen. Bjork is one of them and she is cool in every sense of the word. Her first official solo record, "Debut," was impressive and made me want to investigate her aural art further so "Post" was the logical next step in my education.

As she did with "Debut" she opens her sophomore CD bravely with something challenging. This time it's "Army of Me." A strong drum beat and a NIN-styled synth bass line precede the emergence of a strange, wandering vocal melody that doesn't seem to be grounded in any kind of established chord progression. In other words, if you come here looking for something akin to Aretha Franklin you'll quickly realize that this ain't exactly the queen of soul. The excellent "Hyperballad" is next and it's a song that possesses a little more structure that makes it much more comprehensible. The tune's jazzy electric piano as it wafts over a light techno rhythmic scheme is intriguing and Bjork's singing motif sticks out as being wholly unlike any other on earth. "The Modern Things" follows. Its underlying track develops in a way that's reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's early solo work and the jazz influence detected in her songwriting is undeniable. Yet Bjork is remarkably unorthodox on all counts so you never know what to expect. "It's Oh So Quiet" is a case in point. As she did on the previous disc, she slips into nostalgia mode skillfully and without apology, this time as she brazenly fronts a big band. What's great about this cut is how she manipulates the contrasting dynamics and her clever humor so brilliantly. It's highly entertaining stuff. On "Enjoy" she jumps back into an industrial groove that Trent Reznor would approve of and once again sings in a key that only she can hear. The number creates a bizarre, unnerving aura that is somehow magnetic. "You've Been Flirting Again" is a short vocal-with-string- section piece that provides the album with a classy change of pace moment right in the middle.

"Isobel" is another standout song. It sports a full orchestral opening and then morphs into a number containing a pulsating rhythm that exudes a slight South American vibe but the tune avoids becoming your average girl-singer fare because Bjork takes the score wherever she wants to regardless of conventional wisdom. I like that she so openly flaunts her freedom. "Possibly Maybe" is next and it begins with an electronically-generated loop of sampled sound before evolving into a slow-paced number wherein her emotionally-charged voice dominates, establishing a dichotomy between the serene and the passionate. "I Miss You" is another highlight. Its subtle dance beat is augmented by both artificial and authentic percussion instruments as the track strides beneath her aggressive vocal. She wisely lets the intoxicating momentum carry the song on its shoulders without hindrance and the brassy horns are an exciting addition. "Cover Me" is a brief arrhythmic, experimental composition that displays her fearless nature flawlessly. She closes with "Headphones." After an extremely subdued start she introduces muted synthesized toms that instigate a beat pattern to guide you through an array of inventive vocal snippets and manifestations of her free form poetry and utterances that tastefully manage to skirt around the potholes of becoming irritating or insincere.

Released in the summer of 1995, "Post" reached #32 in the USA but streaked up to #2 in the UK. The singles that the CD spawned also did much better in Britain than here in the states and that further confirms to me that the English continue to be much more prog-minded and flexible in their musical tastes than their Yankee counterparts. The effects of the MTV virus still linger, evidently. Bjork's music also suggests that the final decade of the second millennium was a lot more progressive than I realized and that may be due to the fact that her eclecticism kept her off of US radio stations that were too timid and conservative to give her songs a decent chance to flourish. Over here she was more likely to gain exposure from her wild costumes and exotic looks than from her adventurous music and that's a shame. Hopefully a lot more American proggers will discover her charms in time. Give her a spin. 3.5 stars.

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 Debut by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 1993
3.54 | 103 ratings

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Debut
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by Chicapah
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Like her or not, you gotta admit Bjork Gudmundsdottir has bucked some gargantuan odds to even get noticed. She hails from Iceland, a country containing a population comparable to that of the city of Wichita, Kansas and a mysterious realm that is completely isolated from the rest of the planet. They don't have neighbors to fight with and they don't necessarily cotton to having visitors show up unannounced. Their only indigenous music is of the primitive Nordic folk variety and, though they've composed a boatload of droning spiritual hymns over the centuries, they've never had a homegrown Elvis to shake things up. All other styles, whether they be derivatives of rock & roll, R&B, jazz, or classical, are considered foreign invasions to its more conservative inhabitants and that forced the younger generations to import all things radical in from somewhere else. Next think about the fact that out of a third of a million people perhaps ten percent can play an instrument. If one percent of the members of that group are good enough to be considered proficient then you've got barely over 300 individuals that are worth tipping. If you're a female that's going to be another serious drawback and if you aren't trying to be a Madonna copycat then your chances of achieving notoriety are reduced the level of winning the lottery twice in a row. What I'm asking of everyone who might scoff at her inclusion in the crossover prog category is to give the girl a great deal of slack. She's overcome a lot of huge obstacles in her career and managed to stay true to herself and her aural art at the same time so she deserves a certain amount of respect, at least. When she first started to garner attention back in the 90s I didn't know what to think of her (and didn't bother to investigate) but I could definitely tell she had some spunk in her attitude. She was her own person in a world full of pretenders and that caused me to withhold judgment until I could get a bead on what she was all about. I didn't realize it'd be over two decades later before I got around to sampling her wares but earlier this year I finally acquired a few of her albums and dutifully donned the headphones, starting with her 'Debut.'

I expected something strange and the first song, 'Human Behavior,' delivers. It features a shuffling snare, booming tympani and an indecipherable bass riff that roils beneath Bjork's vocal melody lines that seem to float without being tethered to a particular key. While I can't say I enjoy the piece all that much I will hand it to her for bolting from the gate in a uniquely weird manner. 'Crying' follows and it's a somewhat dated Trip Hop vibe riding atop a disco throb from start to finish. Say what you will about this cute little frosted mini-wheat but she has some serious RANGE in her arsenal and the tune itself has elements of Nine Inch Nails and Peter Gabriel woven into its fabric. She coyly skips back and forth from a minimalist setting into a full-on orchestral soundscape with relative ease and it's cool to witness. 'Venus as a Boy' is next and if there's a genre known as eclectic adult contemporary this is an example. Imagine Peggy Lee on mescaline. What sticks out most is Bjork's undeniable vocal acumen and her impeccable accuracy. All in all it's a delightful, slightly askew modern jazz number. The intro for 'There's More to Life Than This' gives the impression that one has stumbled upon a party-in-progress (the crowd noise was taped at a London nightclub) where a solid R&B groove is shaking the room. The inventive aspect is that she's willing to take risks aka making it sound like she's stepped away from the soiree into a closet right in the middle of the song. One thing I can say is that if you don't like one of these cuts then hang in there because variety seems to be her calling card as exemplified with 'Like Someone in Love.' On this one you're treated to some splendid, angelic harp work from Corky Hale and Bjork's unadorned singing of a sugary ballad as waves break peacefully upon a nearby shore. Not exactly my cup of tea but her preferences know no boundaries and that earns her a tip of my sombrero regardless. 'Big Time Sensuality' sports another Techno dance track foundation and it wears out its welcome quickly. It's one of the weakest tunes on the record in that it doesn't offer much in the way of surprises except for Bjork's remarkably aggressive mien. She has quite a raspy growl for such a tiny lady.

The soundtrack for 'One Day' reminds me of what Porcupine Tree was producing in their 'Up the Downstair' era and I find it engaging. She relies on her emotional, exaggerated vocal attack to provide the dynamics here but there are times when she's less than successful in that endeavor. Think Sade goes alternative rock or emo. 'Aeroplane' is a highlight. A Be-bop horn section opens and then a Martin Denny-ish tropical rhythm glides in to give it a strong, irresistible current. (FYI, Denny was a popular bandleader in the 50s and is considered the 'Father of Exotica.' His hit instrumental 'Quiet Village' still exudes a hypnotic aura to this day. Check it out.) This track is an intriguing mix of textures that's hard to describe yet difficult to dismiss out of hand. On 'Come to Me' I detect a palpable Annie Lennox air hovering behind Bjork's vocal performance but it's not a rip-off because nobody's voice sounds anything like this woman's. Something went disastrously wrong with my download of the next tune, 'Violently Happy,' so I can't offer an assessment. I assume it's another Pop Rock discoth'que ditty because I read where it climbed to #4 on the Billboard Dance Club chart so I'm not going to fret over missing it. 'The Anchor Song' is unusual in that it once again employs the brassy-but-subdued horn section as the number alternates measures of Bjork's sung melody line with a complex jazz score. It's an unconventional approach that I find very interesting and rather bold. As if to make up for the earlier botched download I received a bonus track called 'Play Dead.' It possesses a large-scale symphonic score that'll pin your ears back and, while it does border on being Broadway in a 'Days of Future Passed' sorta way, one cannot ignore her ability to spur her voice to wherever she wills it to go. You have to hear it to believe it.

I'll admit that I went into 'Debut' tentatively because I feared an onslaught of Yoko Ono-like wails and screeches but it turns out my anxiety was unwarranted. This ain't bad at all. What I found most appealing was Bjork's obvious ambitious nature and the character of her singing style. There are a few songs that I could go the rest of my life without hearing again but then some are unorthodox enough to make me curious about what she's done since July of '93 when this album was released. I plan to find out. In the final analysis 'Debut' is a sassy casserole of musical flavors and seasonings that unquestionably leans in a progressive direction. If you're in the mood for something a little off the beaten trail this might tickle your fancy. 3.1 stars.

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 Vespertine by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.96 | 93 ratings

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Vespertine
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by sinslice

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-Hop, but not here. And to recommend this very good album in a specialized rock page, I must warn those who read this description: It´s too electronic and can generate rejection in the first instance.

In my case to hear Vespertine at firsts times, it was not easy to get used to sound and style. Songs are not too catchy and not get tired. The voice is singular, the offer is genuine and successful atmosphere is devastating. There is variety and complexity to acceptable levels, beyond pop music and contains ambient too.

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 Greatest Hits by BJÖRK album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2002
3.45 | 16 ratings

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Greatest Hits
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by jude111

5 stars Normally I don't do compilations, but for Bjork I made an exception. How did Bjork select the tracks for this release? She held a survey on her website in which her biggest fans selected the tracks online. This insured that her most loved tracks (not always her biggest hits) made it on to the album. This album goes from strength to strength, classic to classic.

So why would anyone want this, if they plan to get her albums? For one, you get the video version of All Is Full Of Love that was released as a single, which is much different from the one that closes Homogenic. (Both versions are great, and no Bjork fan can be without either.) You also get the track she recorded for this album, It's In Our Hands, an excellent song that doesn't feel out of place. Finally, the remix version of Big Time Sensuality on here is superior to the original version on Debut.

Okay, so what hits are missing? The one I miss the most is Birthday, which was recorded with the Sugarcubes before she went solo. It's a tremendous song, among her best, and it's clear that she had a big future beyond the confines of that group. Her hits Violently Happy, Play Dead (her first solo hit, a non-album song from a film soundtrack) and It's Oh So Quiet are missing as well. If there's ever a disc 2, I'm sure at least the former will be on it; as for the latter, it's more of a novelty song, and one that many don't like. The other tracks I miss the most are some of the deep cuts from her albums, particularly Unravel (a haunting masterpiece! perhaps my favorite song by her; Radiohead's been known to cover this one from time to time), It's Not Up to You, Undo, and Aurora. Also sadly missing are the key tracks from Selmasongs, which for some reason she didn't consider eligible for this release. Finally, missing are those excellent tracks she recorded with others, including Plaid's Lilith (one of her best) and two tracks for Tricky's Nearly God album (Yoga and Keep Your Mouth Shut). One could easily make a second disc from this era up to 2002 and still not have enough room for everything essential by Bjork.

But not a single one of the 15 tracks on this release doesn't belong here. If Venus As a Boy, Hyperballad, Pagan Poetry, Isobel, Joga, Hidden Place, Hunter and all the rest aren't ear candy to your ears, then Bjork's probably not for you. This is a great place to start as an introduction to Bjork's singular world.

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 Volta by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.60 | 46 ratings

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Volta
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

2 stars "Volta" is Bjork's decline in quality after some extremely poor efforts, yet I was really getting into the style on some of the earlier albums. The inconsistency of the material is the problem, some high moments are marred by dreadful moments.

'Earth Intruders' opens the album with robotic rhythms and Bjork's processed vocals "we are the Earth Intruders" heard over and over. It is an up tempo song that starts the album well enough. It has a wonderful ending that sounds like a fleet of ships in the fog sounding off their horns to one another. I like this experimental side of Bjork as long as she contains the weirdness in actual songs and, unlike "Medulla" Bjork is experimental but still utilises very compelling musical arrangements.

The bass synth percussions and brass overwhelm 'Wanderlust' which has Bjork's raw vocals crying out passionately. This one also has an unusual ending with monotone honking horns and eeries whispers over an ocean effect.

The majestic brass sound opens 'The Dull Flame of Desire" and Bjork sings "I love your eyes, my dear, they're splendid sparkling fire". Her sentiments are echoed by a decent singer Anthony Hegarty, from Anthony & The Johnsons, with a voice odd in itself. The duet is quite pleasant at first but goes on too long and Anthony begins to grate on my nerves after a while.

Odd industrial rhythms power 'Innocence' along reminding me of "Homogenic" or earlier Bjork. It is okay showing the experimental Bjork, but not as compelling as others on the album. 'I See Who You Are' has an Oriental sound and quiet Bjork vocals "I see who you are behind the skin and the muscle." This front end vocal is always intimate and certainly the Japanese influences are prevalent on this track. I find it all a bit dull after a while as it just plods along slowly and doesn't progress.

We return to howling wind, oceans and brass on 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae'. Bjork's measured vocals are interesting and I kind of like the odd off sync percussion and nautical atmospheres. I am quite at a loss though as to whether this is a concept album or not as at times it has similar atmospherics but it is not consistent. The lack of melody is a yawnfest and I have trouble listening to this lengthy repetition.

It seems that repetition and no melody is the new Bjork on this album. Yes, there is music, unlike most of "Medulla" but it lacks coherence. 'Pneumonia' is just a brass section and Bjork's almost improvising a rhythmic vocal. Again, the melody is fractured and hard to hook into, and this goes on far too long. 'Hope' returns to Japanese Oriental music and Bjork's voice moving all over the scale, never locking into a melody. It really is too much for me to withstand, and this is becoming a slog now at this stage to get through. Honestly it is fast becoming the worst Bjork album, and a total disappointment after I was beginning to like her on albums such as "Vespertine", "Homogenic" and "Debut".

'Declare Independence' is experimental with fuzzing sonic deep bass, and Bjork emphatically stating "declare independence don't let them do that to you, start your own currency, make your own stamp, protect your language." I like this especially the electronic fuzz and minimalist approach. Bjork sounds like Toyah and I love that style so this is my favourite on the album. When she sings "raise your flag higher" it sounds even more like Toyah; a great innovative song from Bork.

After this 'My Juvenile' ends this album with nice harp chimes, similar to the work on "Vespertine". The emotional piano crashes are augmented by breathy ice vocals, "down the corridor ice and warmth, down the staircase ice and warmth". This ethereal song ends the album on a very downbeat note but it is a nice song, with lots of creative music, and Anthony returns to add some vocals.

Overall, this is a disappointing album, as Bjork attempts to capture some of the style of "Homogenic" and retain the experimental avant garde of "Medulla" but fails on every level. It has some conceptual transitions, fog horns, boats on a sea and nautical effects, and then at other times opts for a Japanese approach, and none of it gels together or makes any sense as a whole album. It is the worst Bjork album thus far, a failed experiment she would never return to, patchy and inconsistent, with only a few tracks to save it from complete disaster.

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 The Music From Drawing Restraint 9 by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 2005
1.60 | 16 ratings

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The Music From Drawing Restraint 9
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

1 stars "Music From Drawing Restraint 9" is the soundtrack to Bjork's partner/ director Matthew Barney. I haven't seen "Drawing Restraint 9" but the film trailer looks very disturbing, and the soundtrack sounds weird and off kilter. Mayumi Miyata is one of the best sho players, a 16 reed Japanese instrument and her talents are utilised here on the soundtrack. I read that the art house movie focusses on events onboard a Japanese whaling vessel. The first hour or so has no dialogue at all, it is certainly not the average film, and there are surreal images of the guests eating black jello and acting like a bizarre cult. Bjork is one of the guests who is invited to partake in a formal Japanese tea ceremony. Things get very bizarre as they indulge in Shinto marriage rites, that end up with them emerging themselves in a kiss that reunites the lovers in a limited matrimony and with the ocean itself. There is apparently a disturbing scene where the lovers turn into whales and are consumed by the guests like sushi. Well, it is what it is and the music here is as bizarre and off kilter.

'Gratitude' is minimalist harp chimes, musical boxes and the male vocals of Will Oldham. To be honest I was not that taken with this as I wanted to hear Bjork as I kind of like her Icelandic high register vocals.

A raspy breath is heard next with unsettling death rattles and then some off kilter gasps and inhales with 'Pearl'. This is back to "Medulla" and I had no idea this was going to be here but it certainly grabs my attention. Bjork is absolutely at her weirdest here. The backwards harmonica really is disturbing along with Bjork's manic gasping. Avant garde experimentalism and not one for the squeamish. It may represent a nightmare or death, or a sexual encounter, but a pretty disturbing one; absolutely off the wall.

Next is 'Ambergris March' with loud clanging Oriental chimes, similar to those heard on "Volta". This is quite chilling. It is an instrumental with Japanese instrumentation, and Bjork studies Japanese music for this album so it is replete with Japanese influences.

Bjork's trademark mixed to the front vocals are next with some odd Japanese chimes on 'Bath'. It is awful really and I have no interest in this style of Bjork; no melody, raspy warbling, overlayed discordant inharmonious and depressing.

'Hunter Vessel' has a downbeat brooding brass sound, that builds to a staccato horn section. It goes on and on and gets interminable after a while.

'Shimenawa' has a chilling high pitched sound that grates on my nerves immediately. I couldn't sit through this. 'Vessel Shimenawa' is an instrumental of dramatic brass blasts that builds dramtically.

Next Bjork's vocals return for one of the best songs here, 'Storm', with icy waves splashing and a very powerful vocal. Perhaps this is the best song on offer here.

'Holographic Entrypoint' features Shiro Nomura on vocals and a Noh score, used in traditional Sino- Japanese dramatic theatre. It is really an album that is permeated by the Japanese tradition and as such a real oddity, though Bjork has always been fascinated by Japanese culture. It feels odd and I have no love for the wavering vocals, but it still has a place in the film no doubt. At 10 minutes in length this one really outstayed its welcome for me.

'Cetacea' is another Bjork song, and it was pleasurable to hear her high voice after the wavering vocals previously. Again it perhaps works better with the film visuals.

Before listening to this album I expected a Bjork album with highs and lows but I didn't expect it to be Japanese influenced and to only have three songs sung by Bjork, "Bath", "Storm", and "Cetacea". "Gratitude", "Shimenawa" and "Cetacea" have the harp playing beauty of Zeena Parkins, who collaborated on "Vespertine", but is so much better when the harp is juxtaposed with Bjork's vocals. This was disappointing as the real drawcard to Bjork for me is her inimitable vocals. When these are absent the album gets boring. This is a soundtrack of course but nothing really that special in either musical approach or compositional structures. Strike this one down for diehard fans only.

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 Vespertine by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 2001
3.96 | 93 ratings

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Vespertine
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

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.

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 Selmasongs: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack 'Dancer In The Dark' by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.20 | 40 ratings

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Selmasongs: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack 'Dancer In The Dark'
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars The soundtrack to "Dancer in the Dark" certainly appealed to an art house movie lover as myself. The film is powerfully excruciatingly raw, Bjork putting on an enigmatic towering performance as the Czech immigrant Selma led into murder by extenuating circumstances. She meets her eventual fate at the gallows and sings a pain wracked song to remove herself from the trauma of dying, a raw, emotional performance that is unforgettable. I was looking forward to hearing this last song again on the album but was bitterly disappointed that the song is left off the soundtrack, a stupid decision really as it is one of the best things she has done.

The album is a curio that features performances by acting legends Catherine Deneuve, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, and Siobhan Fallon. They do a competent job on their respective contributions, but it is Bjork who shines here. It is a short album at 33 minutes but features some of the best music in the film, though not enough.

Overture (3:38) is the opener of the film and is basically an orchestral soundtrack with sweeping strings and typical cinematic textures. Cvalda (featuring Catherine Deneuve) has a mechanised machinery sound like the printing press in the film where Selma works. Bjork's broken vocals soon crash over, and this is a wildly creative composition. Some fractured jazz tones come in and Deneuve's vocals are as exuberantly manic as the jazz industrial music; really as compelling as the movie. This number is best seen in the movie though with breathtaking choreography and amusing printing press percussion.

I've Seen It All, features Thom Yorke, the Radiohead vocalist and he is a familiar voice here. The train sound is very atmospheric and there is an ominous musical accompaniment. Yorke's vocals work well with Bjork's high register faltering voice. This is rather bleak and melancholy, with strange lyrics, "you haven't seen elephants, what about China have you seen the great wall" in which Yorke answers "all walls are great if the roof don't fall." Again the movie version is more powerful with surreal imagery on the train and Bjork's emotional expressions. A darkly beautiful song with majestic orchestration merged oddly with electronic percussion.

Scatterheart is the longest track (6:39), and features Bjork by herself musing on her fate; "what's going to happen next, I know the future, just to make it easier, you are going to have to find out for yourself." The musical toybox sounds are unsettling, and the off kilter sustained strings that balance her synthetic processed vocals. I find this to go on a bit too long for its own good, but it still is a mesmirising moment of the film and perhaps best experienced in the visual form. The lengthy music at the end sounds quite sad, as much as the film in that respect.

In The Musicals (4:41) is a vibrant rhythmic piece with Bjork sounding more urgent as her character lapses into the fantasy state of mind where she dreams of being in a musical. The sadness of the song is that Selma is so happy in this segment of the film, she is happiest in the character of the musical diva entertaining the masses. The soundtrack features some odd scratchy noises, that are appropriate as Bjork sings "I cannot help to adore you, you are in a musical, you are having a ball, you are always there to catch me." The section that sounds like tap dancing will bring back memories of the film scene in the court room, where Selma tap dances and cavorts with the jury, judge and prosecutor, and a role by Joel Gray, a surreal scene so well captured by Bjork in her best performance.

It leads to the sombre chill of 107 Steps featuring Siobhan Fallon who has the beautiful role of the sympathetic prison warden. The song has the unnerving counting by Fallon as Selma, almost blind walks methodically to the gallows. This is an unforgettable scene that has an unsettling edge, along with glorious uplifting orchestration. It is here where the next song should have been included but you will have to see the movie to experience its power; one of the most unsettling heart pounding scenes I have seen. The last song sobbingly sung with raw energy when Selma has the noose placed around her neck, her final cry out to the world, and her joy as she realises her son will have his sight, is omitted; an horrendous error. Perhaps the producers wanted it to be limited to the movie performance alone. This is the brave frankly raw scene that has most cinemagoers reaching for the Kleenex.

New World (4:21) is the song heard in the closing credits as people walked out of the cinema shellshocked from the harrowing film they had just witnessed. Admittedly this soundtrack does not have any impact on me after seeing the cult film. It is nowhere near as powerful, but it still features some of the film's great tracks. However, at only 33 minutes, surely the soundtrack could have been so much better, adding more of the traumatic moments and music from the excellent film.

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 Homogenic by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.68 | 115 ratings

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Homogenic
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars "Homogenic" is the album released following the notorious event where she was stalked and frightened out of her wits by a mad fan. The songs seem to mirror her state of mind which is more paranoia that usual given the circumstances. This was also the period that made headlines with a viral video when Bjork went beserk attacking a reporter at Bangkok airport, and I remember seeing this and thinking that Bjork is the real deal; she really is a nutter. This album perhaps cements this sentiment for me but it is not as bizarre as albums to come notably "Medulla" and "Vespertine". However "Homogenic" is Bjork becoming more experimental and distant from her fans. She feels protective of her real emotions on this, but determined and confident to add metaphorical imagery to convey hidden truths of the human condition. The lyrics are among the best she has written I believe and I will reiterate many in the review.

Hunter gets the ball rolling, obviously about the stalker event. Bjork's voice is chilling with effects and a trip hop rhythmic electronica. A menacing song that is surprisingly full of cellos and strings enhancing the ominous atmosphere.

Jóga has a nice string section though still sounds downbeat. Bork tells stories about the darker nature of the mind. She sings "I feel your emotional landscapes, and you push me up to a state of emergency, how beautiful to be, a state of emergency is where I want to be." The electronic percussion is ethereal and effective, competing against the strings; this is dark stuff and fills me with a sense of dread. It builds to a break of electronic Industrial synth that I like.

Unravel begins with soft brass sounds, and odd sounds as Bjork improvises a melody. Her verses are full of questions, and thoughts of alienation, bad memories and inescapable seclusion. Nice to chill out to when you are feeling low, and her music seems to speak to the darker emotional state, it feeds off it.

Bachelorette has a wonderful orchestral arrangement, like a cinema soundtrack and a driving rhythm. Bjork sings of being a fountain "in the shape of a girl, you are the bird on the brim hypnotised by the world, drink me, wash your beak in the stream". I like the imagery a lot, a bird drinking in her juices, she just captures the feeling of loss and longing like no other artist. The metaphors are there; "if you forget my name you will go astray, Like a killer whale". She is a master of allegory and idiomatic expressions; call it poetry because that is the form of her lyrics.

All Neon Like is a capella quiet Bjork for a while and I am not a fan of this side of her craft. The music chimes in later and tends to build with electronic pulses. The imagery is as usual fascinating; "The cocoon surrounds you embraces all, so you can sleep fetus style". She says she will cut a slit open to allow the luminescence out; sounds like suicide, but she promises "I will heal you". Chilling to the bone.

5 Years is next, with a grinding keyboard and some loud industrial sonic distorted percussion electronica. Her voice is louder mixed to the front and she sings of cowards that say they want what they can't have, and "I dare you show me your pulse, what's so scary but the threat inside, you can't tend to love, its obvious, I dare you to take me home." She seems to be screaming out to the stalker as that makes sense as a source of inspiration. The synths sound like Gary Numan I noticed, so I like this one a lot.

Immature ? Mark Bell's Version is very electronic and brooding. Bjork asks "how could I be so immature" to put up with this unnamed lover. She gets aggressive on this screeching out occasionally, pent up rage feeling real and vulnerable.

Alarm Call has more strong electronic sounds but it sounds too similar to the previous tracks. Bjork growls more but it does not strike me as a stand out performance. Pluto is next with that poor planet getting a mention at least in the title, before it became nothing more than a mini planet. Bjork's vocals are synthetically processed but it is quite awful. The rhythms are powerful and techno speed but this is an industrial headache.

The last song is All Is Full Of Love ? Howie's Version, and has a symphonic texture, swathes of synths over Bjork's mystical vocals. She sounds confident and pretty here, pleading "you have to trust" and "trust your head around, it's all around you, all is full of love, all around you." This is very nice to end the album on a ray of hope.

"Homogenic" is one of the better Bjork entries by a huge margin. 3 stars.

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 Post by BJÖRK album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.43 | 91 ratings

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Post
Björk Crossover Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Bjork may not be to my taste on some albums but I am still drawn to hear more of her material to see what she has come up with, and a friend of mine has the full collection so I had to borrow these CDs to learn more of this popular unique but extremely off kilter artist. As soon as the album begins you are in Bjork's world. Bjork's voice is unique, high piercing and wavering imperfectly throughout, and her fanbase wouldn't have it any other way. She sounds to me like an imperfect Kate Bush. There are more strings, cellos, violins and orchestrations than other albums and that was good thing in my opinion. The music is excellent and symphonically charged, with some electronic passages, but Bjork's voice is one that you will either love or hate. To be fair she really is a genius of the absurd, totally original, shakey and vulnerable, and sometimes uncomfortably sad in her tones.

Listening to Army of Me, I can detect slabs of electronica and her multi tracked vocals are very nice to hear. I love the melody of this and the Daft Punk deep bass synths are mesmirising. This is a very eerie song but definitely one of my Bjork faves. The dark atmosphere is driven by serious vocals, lyrics and deep downbeat tones. Hyper-Ballad has a deep bass and electronic drums to begin with, and then Bjork's distant high register vocals talk of living on a mountain at the top, and walking toward the edge to throw car parts, bottles and cutlery off the edge. As usual everything is morbid and sound like the ravings of a deranged mind. Nevertheless it is compelling and draws you into her darkened rage. She imagines what her body feels like slamming on those rocks, and she wishes to be sane again; so not a happy song by any means.

From this suicidal depression we move to The Modern Things, that has a mixed to the front Bjork voice and a basstronic vibe. The way she forces out the vocals is kind of interesting at first but it wears thin after a while. The lyrics are nonsensical unless you want to get into Bjork's brain and that is not a nice place to be. This is dark stuff and of course will appeal to many for that reason.

It's Oh So Quiet is one I had heard on MTV with its weird broadway dance clip, so it was strangely familiar though I had forgotten the melody. The strings on this are endearing and its jazz reminds me of the stuff Neil Peart does on his latest drum solos. Bjork is at her nuttiest here ssh-ing us to listen, and acting like a cabaret jazz act. It is fun and she loves to scream at times which is a nice change from all the high vocals. The chimes on this are more chilling than nice, and of course this was a single and nothing really like the rest of her catalogue.

Enjoy is very dark, scratchy effects and Gary Numan industrial synths; I like that deep sound. Bjork's voice is distant and melodic. "I wish I only love you, I wish implicitly" she croons as the synths gyrate like house music. The electronic rhythms are overpowering but somehow this really works. You've Been Flirting Again is another of the ballads Bjork likes to perform to show her vulnerable sad side. I never like them on her other albums, and this is no different. It is painfully slow and has a repetitive violin sound.

Isobel has more orchestral arrangements, a brass section and ambient strings, until an electro-drum begins and scratchy guitar. Bjork sings of being in "a forest pitch as dark, my name Isobel married to myself". The strings are luscious and sweeping, and overall this is a nice song.

Possibly Maybe is a quiet song with a lone organ motif, and Bjork's vulnerable voice overlayed as sinister strings are heard. The atmosphere is bleak and esoteric as a slow bass pulse is heard down tuned and electronic.

I Miss You has an electro pulse and a fast paced percussion sequence. Bjork says she misses me though she hasn't met me yet, but I can't relate to what she is on about; perhaps an imaginary relationship is not as painful as the real deal so she fantasises about the untouchable lover who is out there somewhere ready to sweep her off her feet.

Cover Me is a short thing with creepy keyboards and a mad whispering vocal that is sinister and haunting. Not my taste at all but it is quite a unique minimalist piece, the keyboards are progressive and almost improvisational. It ends with Headphones, with a low key humming keyboard and Bjork singing like the previous song, whispering quietly without force, just taking it easy voicing phrases such as "they haven't been touched before, these sounds are virgins, my headphones they saved my life, lulled me to sleep, nothing will be the same, I like this resonance, it elevates me, I don't recognise myself, this is very interesting." A compelling eerie song that says something about how music becomes our companion in our darkest hour.

So ends a satisfactory album, and I was quite fascinated by most of it. Bjork fans will love this no doubt as she is in her element here, having fun shocking the establishment and twisting music to form her own style.

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Thanks to chris s for the artist addition.

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