on 5 September 2001
I have been a fan of Bjork for aroun 8 years and really love and enjoy her music. I have to say that Vespertine is, for me, her best album! Admittedly it is a little difficult upon first hearing but that is only because you haven't heard the like of it before - not from Bjork or any other artist for that. It is very honest and intimate. You would almost think it a diary full of personal thoughts and feelings (especially listening to 'Cocoon'). Bjork fans know that with her albums she tends to take a new and surprising route with each album and goes for a particular sound eg with the album 'Post', electronic sounds were the focus and 'Homogenic' focused on strings and voice. 'Vespertine' has real beautiful uplifting choir voice which gets quite lush in places as well as the electric harp and strings. Highlights include 'Unison', 'Pagan Poetry', 'Aurora' and 'Hidden Place' which stands out using noodle-like sounds against a choir. I think this is an excellent album and am really glad I have it. With each album Bjork does something new and this is a good addition to a collection or if you just want to hear something different.
on 17 March 2006
Whether she liked it or not, "Dancer In The Dark" had cemented Björk’s place in pop culture as a pioneer of the utmost order, as well as leading to the most questionable choice of dress in a singer’s career ever with the infamous “swan” draped over her shoulders. After collecting accolades for both her music and her acting (among them two Golden Globe nominations and another nod for the Best Song Oscar), it would have been assumed by many that Björk would have come out firing on all cylinders with her next LP. Björk’s mind, however, humbled by the success of "Dancer" and a newfound loving relationship with performance artist Matthew Barney, was on a different plane altogether. The result, "Vespertine", could easily be described as the stuff of dreams, featuring soundscapes and melodies unlike any to be found in her career.
The main difference between "Vespertine" and the albums that precede it lies directly in their environmental space. "Debut’s" pop music exemplified the best of early ‘90s UK dance, whilst "Post" saw Björk travelling the world with many an eclectic collaborator, swinging wildly from the urban metropolis to the tropical rainforest. "Homogenic" represented a return to her nativeland with its raw geology and sweeping romanticism, whilst "SelmaSongs" used sounds directly from the film set itself to spark the character of Selma’s musings into songs. "Vespertine" is very different because the environment explored here is Björk herself. Using the advances of Internet glitch-pop much like Radiohead did with "Kid A", Björk concocts epic pieces of music that beguilingly soar into the listener’s consciousness. As strings and choirs cascade around beats that remain little more than indistinct scuttles and scratches, moments are reached that frequently rank as the most beautiful in Björk’s career.
Björk’s classical influence is engaged more than ever here. Briefly touched upon in the "Post" and indulged in far more with "Homogenic", Björk and trusted arrangers Guy Sigsworth and Vince Mendoza (who worked their fabulous wiles on the arrangements for "SelmaSongs" also) supply moments that border on the ethereal, aided substantially by the choice of choirs and Zeena Parkins on a resplendently beautiful harp. Meanwhile, the programming is subtle in the extreme; for the more boisterous songs, bass lines can be discerned, but for the most part the minutiae of the beats themselves (taken from shuffling cards, crushed ice and heavy breathing, amongst others) don’t so much pin the song down rather allow them to breathe and give them texture. And they are all held together by Björk’s luminous vocal, which has really never sounded so assured and graceful.
Another gracenote of "Vespertine’s" is in the thematic strands that hold it together. Whereas "Debut" was sweet and mellow throughout with the odd dance break, "Post" was enjoyably all-over-the-place and "Homogenic" trudged malignantly through its destructive lava field, "Vespertine" manages to cover all aspects of Björk’s new world without repetition or a discernible through line. All of the songs are concerned with love and carnality, from blissful first encounters (“Hidden Place”) to whispered reassurances (“Undo”), from the inner sanctum of sexual harmony (“Cocoon”) to the ambivalent exercising of perfunctory lust (“Harm Of Will”). It is without doubt Björk’s most sexually explicit album, but inversely intimate rather than extrovertly porny and raunchy (the light to "The Teaches Of Peaches’s" dark, if you will). Her lyrics also suggest an evolution in content and character, highlights including “Unison” (an affectionate dig at Lars Von Trier) and “Pagan Poetry” (a celebration of an achingly secret love).
It must also rank as Björk’s most collaborative album, as well as her most referential. Working with the likes of Marius De Vries, Matthew Herbert, Matmos and Zeena Parkins, she also has lyrics from esteemed literary luminaries E.E. Cummings and Sarah Kane, not to mention a typically disturbing piece from filmmaker Harmony Korine. That all of the work coalesces into a whole is testament to Björk’s production skills, herself acting as sole producer on the majority of the songs on offer here. In a touching way, "Vespertine" has Björk come full circle from the sojourn she set out on with "Debut" in 1993 … "Vespertine" has the same amused, benevolent detachment of "Debut", but the knowledge and sage-like tone behind her voice and her soundscapes exhibit a maturity and poignancy that nestles the listener inside a glacial paradise. It’s like listening to iceberg’s melting away with love and warmth on a clear day and surely one of the most beautiful albums ever made. A shocking superlative, I know, but it really is that gorgeous …
on 7 September 2001
Well there's little doubt in my mind this is the best album I've heard over the last year or two. (I would have dubbed it the album of the millenium but that would be a little pretentious.) On my first listening I was looking for the instantly accesible, catchy tunes, and there a few of those but repeated listenings kept increasing my appreciation of this album and in particular allowed me to enjoy it as an organic whole. Bjork has crafted something absolutely fascinating, music that allows us to share her own fascinations, whimsies, wonders and moods. Its hard to describe the impact of this intimacy. I can't think of a singer since Kate Bush who has acheived such depths in her music and who gives her immagination such free reign. I don't think everyone is going to respond to this album as I did, but I do think everyone should give it a try. Simply fabulous!
on 31 August 2001
Vespertine is by far Bjorks most ambitious work to date. From the bouncy pop of "Debut," to the Electronic, jazz influence of "Post," to the almost Techno/Classical theme (if there is such a thing) of "Homogenic" to the soothing electronic take on chamber music of "Vespertine." And it's a real corker.
The theme is that of "An album that sounded like it was made while someone was cooking pasta," as Bjork recently put it. It's a swirling, cosmic album of gothic imagery and dreamscapes; soothing choir voices interweave harps and electronic blips and deep bass-lines. Bjorks distinct voice as always sounds so natural and unfiltered; this carries the album along beautifully.
Stand out tracks include "Hidden Place" (the first single), "It's Not Up To You," "Undo," "Pagan Poetry" and "Unison." "Harm Of Will" being my personal favourite. The highly textured soundscapes are layered beautifully throughout, showing thoughtful production. Much of the rhythmic blips, squeaks and taps, courtesy of Matmos are much more understated here than in any other of Bjorks solo workings. The overall melody too is far less unforgiving from that of her previous working "Homogenic." The album soothes, it lulls, calms and uplifts. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, her finest work to date and deserves a place in any true music fans collection.
on 5 March 2003
This is the first review I've written for Amazon. Yes, Björk's album 'Vespertine' has made me feel so good that I was forced me to voice an opinion and dare I say, 'Vespertine' is probably the most beautiful album I've listened to. There, I've said it. Already owning all of Björk's previous solo albums (not to mention her work with 'The Sugarcubes') I was at first dubious as to buying her latest album for reasons unknown to myself. Let me tell you that on purchase these doubts have been wholly obliterated.
If you too have experienced Björk's previous work this album may come as a shock to begin with, it being like none of her past albums, this being true of every new Björk release in fact. In 'Vespertine' Björk experiments with electronic beats arranging them alongside the harp of Zeena Parkins and stirring orchestral and choral flourishes. The sound manages to sound organic and personal even with these computerised electronic beats. As mentioned in other reviews the overall tone seems wintry. Not the harshness of winter though, the crisp iciness, the beauty in nature, the sparkle and shine. Maybe the fact that winter is my favourite time of year makes me like this record more than I should. I guess this new sound can be summed up in 'It's Not Up to You', the squelchy, dripping electronic sounds set against the uplifting strings and choir in the chorus. All of the tracks are rich with sound, truly alive. It will take you many listens to fully appreciate the full undercurrent of every last sound put into each song.
This is on the whole a far more mellow set of songs than perhaps you are used to with Björk. You will find nothing like 'Pluto' or 'Enjoy' here, yet this mellowness far from taking emotion away from her songs in fact makes them extremely intimate. Good examples of this are 'Pagan Poetry' where a seeming multitude of 'Björks' repeat "She loves him..." and 'Cocoon', a deeply intimate account of a new love set against an experimental electronic beat that sounds (to me) like a spider tip-toeing across a glass floor. Fantastic. Intrigued yet?
Björk also uses her voice in new ways, a breathy, drawn out, beautiful tone, again increasing intimacy. This new sound is showcased in songs such as 'An Echo, a Stain'. The songs themselves also seem more drawn out (in a good way) such as the wonderful end song 'Unison'. On 'Undo' (as in the past in songs such as 'Possibly Maybe') Björk appears to be just thinking aloud. Björk's voice was always unique but somehow on 'Vespertine' she manages to bring it up to the next level.
In order to sound unbiased I'll try to fault Björk although this is totally against my nature. The only low point in the album would be 'Sun in My Mouth' which I don't dislike or skip but just not listen to as attentively as on the other tracks. Oh, and I wish I knew what was going on in 'Heirloom'. I honestly like the song but unfortunately can't appreciate the lyrics as I'm confused as to what they mean exactly. I think personally that maybe it's just supposed to be abstract journey (which Björk has done before in say 'Headphones') and just part of the 'dream' she is experiencing. I definitely enjoy it on this level. I wonder where the title links in though? I would love it someone told me the real meaning (if there is one that is). As you can see these are minor points and negligible when looking at the album as a whole. The album still feels cohesive, maybe not as much as 'Homogenic' but still it can be listened to as a collective piece.
In my personal opinion 'Vespertine' is one of the best albums of Björk's career, easily rivalling the equally brilliant 'Homogenic'. I cannot pick a single track as a favourite but highlights include 'Cocoon', 'It's Not Up to You', 'Pagan Poetry', 'Aurora', 'An Echo, a Stain' and 'Unison'. That's most of the album! See what I mean. Not only is the album fantastic, the B-Sides are worthy of inclusion in the final version themselves. I recommend anyone that has enjoyed 'Vespertine' to check out 'Our Hands' especially (Released as a single itself from her 'Greatest Hits' under the title 'It's in Our Hands') but also 'Generous Palmstroke', 'Verandi', 'Foot Soldier', 'Mother Heroic', 'Domestica' and 'Amphibian' (featured on the 'Being John Malkovic' soundtrack) to gain an even fuller 'Vespertine' experience. The DVD of Björk singing live at the Royal Opera House in London is also recommended if you still can't satisfy any Björk craving. 'Vespertine' must, however, be appreciated in it's own way as is the same with all of her work. Björk matures with every album; 'Vespertine' is the sure work of a woman. If you're a fully proven anti-Björk demonstrator then this album won't change your opinions, but lovers of Björk won't mind as they will know what a treat they're missing. It makes you feel proud to own this album wanting to keep these special little gems all to yourself. I fully recommend 'Vespertine' to anyone who has been intrigued by this review in any way, even those who have never bought a Björk album before, this is an excellent place to start a collection. Although I have most likely overemphasised a little during this brief overview I guess I just have a strong bond with this album. I always identify with Björk as strange as that sounds, her songs discussing withdrawal, the need for a 'Hidden Place'. I have given this album 5 stars but in reality I feel it is a 4 and a half star effort. Maybe not true unsurpassed genius but pretty close. If you do buy 'Vespertine' I'm sure you'll end up as I feel now, regretting the time it took you to discover such a beautiful, uplifting and living piece of work.
Note: The version I bought seems to differ from the one on sale here at Amazon. 'Sun in My Mouth' has been replaced by 'Generous Palmstroke', which I think personally is a pretty good deal on the publics' part. If you like the song I recommend you seek down the live version from the 'Family Tree' collection, it's amazing and I think maybe even surpasses the original.
on 8 September 2001
Being new to Bjork, I wondered how I'd like this. I had only heard a few tracks from previous works (on a free promo CD in the Times!). There is a crystal clarity to this, a sparseness, yet with the lush sounds of harp, celeste and music box. Her voice is intimate and breathy, and again passionate and full-throated. She sure can sing, and even the obscure lyrics have meaning. I love the way she twists the meter round within the music, and the Icelandic accent adds to the interest. Some tracks - like "Aurora" just seem to soar away to the sky. I love it. But don't listen to it too often, as it could lose meaning - you have to listen properly to appreciate. I certainly will be buying her previous works too.
on 23 February 2006
this is without doubt one of the most sublime and beautiful albums ever recorded. Bjork is completely in control of an inner world view. The image rich lyrics, the fearlessness and intimacy of the vocals alongside the cutting edge electronica and lush orchestral arrangements show an artist who never fails to dare with every release.
on 22 January 2003
I held off buying this for too long after being less than impressed by the singles (Pagan Poetry and Hidden Place), and boy, was that a mistake! Now I've finally succumbed, it's probably my favourite Bjork album, with all the beauty of Debut, and the electro/organic sound of Homogenic.
I have warmed to the singles to - Hidden Place is much, much better after repeat listenings. It's the little things you notice, like the chopped-up vocals, that really add to the song. Cocoon I just plain don't like - I skip it almost always, I'm afraid. Pagan Poetry is still something of a mystery to me. There's nothing wrong with it as such, I just don't feel it contains as much beauty as the rest of the songs here. Everyone else loves it though, so maybe it's just me. The rest of the album is fantastic, mind.
Compared to Post and Homogenic, Vespertine contains none of the 'Angry Bjork' (Army Of Me, Pluto), but plenty of the nice, fluffy, 'Lovely Bjork'. The Vince Mendoza-fuelled strings throughout the album work well with the sometimes harsh clicks and bleeps, and really compliment Bjork's voice. It's exactly the direction I'd hope she'd go in, after the hints of Homogenic. Joga and All Is Full Of Love would suit this album just as well as they suited that.
In tracks like Undo and Unison, the strings swell up, she sounds almost operatic...and...it's just brilliant! Sometimes I can't deal with the whole album at once - the climaxes take you through the roof and up amongst the stars, and it's often just too much to take! And that really is just about as high an accolade as I can give it. If you 'get' Bjork, buy this album. If you're looking for a place to start, this or the Greatest Hits would be as good as any.
on 5 October 2001
I have nothing more to add to the already exsisting reviews but to give my nod of agreemnt. She has done some wonderful songs and they are soothing..very much like a "Vesper" like evening..in Winter. As Winter is my favorite time of the year..I was happy to hear these songs. They all have a "Wintery" feeling..you can see the snow and ice outside of your window..from your house..while you are inside wrapped in a blanket drinking hot chocolate. To simply say..this may not be the Bjork album for everyone..some will be surprised at the mellowness of it..compaired to her other works. So, wrap up in a blanket and let Bjork sing you to sleep with her soft voice, music box and fairy tale like songs....
on 22 January 2007
Vespertine is not quite like Bjork's earlier albums (Debut, Homogenic, Post). Its lush orchestration and heavenly choirs take her to a new level. It takes a while to appreciate, but is now my absolute favourite. The Bjork voice is as fresh and the lyrics are as quirky as ever - who else could come up with "Now I have been slightly shy / But I can smell a pinch of hope"? Pure poetry! From the opening track "Hidden Place" to the gorgeous "Unison", this is music at its most ethereal and sublime.