Amazon.com's Best of 2001
Ever since Björk's vital, effusive 1993 debut, her music has been increasingly intimate, gently private, and concerned with seclusion. It's typical then that Vespertine's first single is called "Hidden Place." The studious solitude is rewarding, though. Vespertine is a lush, gorgeous swell of midpace electronica, symphonic strings, and Björk's uniquely alien, spectral vocals. There are fantastical wonders here. "Cocoon" (another eulogy to withdrawal from the world) is delicate as a breath, Björk sounding too fragile to be flesh as she lauds "a beauty this immense." "Pagan Poetry" and "Aurora," likewise, are adrift in an enchanted reverie. When she chooses, she crafts killer tunes; "It's Not up to You" is as lovely as anything on Post. Yet, frequently, on such tracks as the yearning, glancing "Undo," Björk seems to be simply thinking aloud, reveling in this wildly rich and visceral music. She's reclaimed cutting-edge electronica, so often the province of geeks and technicians, for the poets and the passionate. Vespertine is a landmark, a revelation, and a truly fabulous achievement. --Ian Gittins
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For a Björk virgin, Vespertine better than expected...
P. Winslow | 04/19/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While I certainly cannot claim to be a Björk fan, this album is a pleasant surprise to a Rock `n Roll type of guy. Björk always seemed like that crazy lady, wearing a swan, making goofy electronic music, but on first listen, the album came across as deeply personal, full of emotion and passion. It sounded more like an expression of life versus an explanation, complete with all the `hidden' stuff. I later found out that Björk even said (of Vespertine) "It's corny to make a soundtrack for making a sandwich, but I quite like it. For so long I wanted to whisper. It was a watercolour as opposed to an oil." This album is the result of collaboration with Matmos, known for their exploration of sampled sound, and that shows through in the unique blending of samples from snow, shuffling cards, and traditional strings all mixed with Björk's distinctive voice.
Of course Björk is known for her variety of sounds and unique voice, but this album showcases her talent in composition without driving beats or crowded rhythms. She also brings in strings and backing choir vocals to mix with the samples and her generally hushed voice (on Vespertine anyway). "It's Not Up to You" and "Aurora" are some of my favorites off of the album which feature angelic choir vocals - quite beautiful. The former also has a cool, "glitchy" rhythm layered with strings, while the latter uses some nice snow-crunching samples and a harp to create a soothing piece. "Unison" is another good song on the album, featuring great use of a choir sampled from St Paul's Cathedral, a slower beat, soaring vocals, and some cool synthesized (FM?) melodies.
More generally, the album features Björk's voice on top of sparse rhythms, with some songs like "Sun in my Mouth" qualifying more as ambient music. "A Hidden Place" and "Heirloom" are the more beat-heavy bits off of the album, with "Hidden Place" being one of the more memorable tracks on Vespertine. While much of the album has bits of noise or "glitchy" rhythms, "Pagan Poetry" and "Sun in my Mouth" are on the more traditional side of instrumentation, offering nice compositional contrast with the rest of the album.
"Cocoon" is something of a whispered song about love and is not really one of my preferred pieces, but is at least an interesting listen. "Frosti" is a total instrumental interlude of bells in the middle of the album, again providing some contrast. "An Echo A Stain," "Undo," and "Harm of Will" are also decent songs on the album, but I don't find myself particularly attached to them. But again, I'm not a huge `Björkie,' `Björker,' or whatever a Björk fan is called.
Overall, I can say that Vespertine is a satisfying album with plenty of replay value. Even on a first listen, I felt that I could appreciate what Björk brings to the table, which is more than I can say for some electronic artists. She successfully combines neat samples, strings, a choir, and her own voice to create a compelling sound, accessible to anyone. You may even find yourself humming a bit while making yourself a sandwich...