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Björk - Selmasongs [Aka: Dancer in the Dark] (OST) CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.22 | 71 ratings

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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.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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