Marius De Vries

Shortly after completing Moulin Rouge Marius was asked by Björk to help her finish her latest album, Vespertine. This was only the latest step in a working relationship which began when Marius was working on some remixes for the last Sugarcubes record.

"Back then, she was really the first artist who I connected with who provided a home for some of the odder and more outlandish aspects of what I do in terms of programming and sound design. She’s very au fait with contemporary avant garde music and the more pioneering electronic stuff. She’s always been very comfortable and enthusiastic about both, and it’s also a passion I share. To find someone who is making pop records but was prepared to accommodate such influences was very exciting for me, and I think it was great for her to find someone who was capable of turning out professional-sounding records and understood those languages. In many respects Vespertine pushed some of those elements even further because of the involvement of people like Matmos, Matthew Herbert, Thomas Knak and Zeena Parkins, who are all phenomenal musicians and composers in their own right.

Björk collaborated with numerous people on just about every continent. For example, the harpist Zeena Parkins was from New York, Matmos are based in San Francisco, Thomas Knak in Denmark, Bogdan Roszinski in Toronto, and Matthew Herbert and Guy Sigsworth are based in London, so Björk was travelling around with Jake Davies who was archiving and keeping the Pro Tools sessions organised. By the time I came to Vespertine Jake had many hard disks full of people’s contributions. All the parts needed a lot of sorting out and comping, and they all needed to be kind of introduced to each other. Most of what I did was to do with this kind of organisation and maybe add little bits here and there where I thought they were needed. Then there were a few new tracks such as ’Pagan Poetry’ and ’Palm Stroke’, which we more or less started from scratch.

Marius’ task of collating and arranging the Vespertine sessions was made particularly difficult by the different formats of the recordings.

"Any given song might have been spread across three or four Pro Tools recordings, some of which came from the early sessions in Spain when it was just Björk and Jake’s programming, a scratch vocal and maybe something from Guy if he was passing through. Harp sessions would have been recorded later in New York, in some cases as an overdub on top of a slave mixdown of that Spanish stuff. Then she would have posted it off to Matmos and asked them to add their stuff. Matmos are happy to work with a stereo track, so Jake would have sent an MP3 stereo backing track, Matmos would have worked their stuff on top of it and sent it back as consecutive DAT streams, with a sync pulse on the front of each track. Occasionally there would also be some additional programming Björk had done on her Powerbook. I took this weird collection of sessions and assembled them into one big Logic session and then put it together track by track."

"It was useful that I came in late because I could see the wood for the trees and I didn’t have an overly emotional attachment to any particular overdub. There were sacrifices that had to be made but I had to be very sympathetic to everyone’s contributions because these are all brilliant musicians and everything they do they do for a reason. Before attempting to mix and match it all together I examined each individual contribution and made sure I was being sensitive to what they were trying to do."