Bjork’s works, 10 octobre 2001

The unconventional singer looks inward with latest album

Bjork, no stranger to strangeness — in the most beautiful sense of the word — has really done it this time. She compares the making of her latest album, "Vespertine" (Eleketra), to assembling a 5,000-piece puzzle, composed of tiny, barely audible sounds.

Instead of guitars and drums, she employs music boxes, harps and celestes to create a world of breathtaking intimacy, and her singing brims with a previously unheard warmth and fragility.

Now she is in the midst of a brief tour of North American opera houses, including a sold-out performance Sunday, October 20, at the Civic Opera House. She’ll be accompanied by a 54-piece orchestra, a 15-member choir from Greenland, a Canadian throat singer, the electronic duo Matmos and avant-garde luminary Zeena Parkins, playing a self-invented electric harp.

These aren’t the building blocks of just any ordinary concert, and Bjork is no ordinary artist. She was raised by "hippie parents" in Reykjavik, Iceland, studied classical music and released her first album at the age of 11, in 1977. She ventured into punk rock and eventually formed the Sugarcubes, pop-punk surrealists who released four albums before Bjork moved to London.

There, she began indulging her love of electronic dance music in collaborations with Soul II Soul producer Nellee Hooper and other deejays and mixers on two solo albums : "Debut" (1993) and "Post" (1995). "Homogenic" (1997) was a bold, self-produced statement tinged with anger, big beats and an air of violence. "Vespertine" is its opposite : a beat-less sanctuary of gorgeous lullabies and swooning ballads.

Recent events in America have made the album even more of a balm than it otherwise might have been. In an interview before beginning her tour, Bjork reflected on its impact.

You once said that you didn’t believe in music as therapy. But I think "Vespertine" has been therapeutic for many people as they process the events of Sept. 11.

I don’t think anybody who does my job would like to consider themselves a Band-Aid maker. But in tough times, the best thing to do is to go out there and see that there are people doing incredible things, and to see that there is more to life than these events. You could watch a Buster Keaton film and laugh your head off and still be completely respectful - - that could be the most beautiful ritual you could do. What I’m trying to say, it’s not exactly what you do, but how you do it. In difficult moments, I definitely want to get more art and hear more music.

Does this raise the stakes for all artists in how they engage the world ?

I always felt that I should be true to what I do. And if people are interested, they come along. And if they’re not, they don’t, and that’s OK. It’s never been on my agenda to rule the world. If your art must change after an event like this, you’re using people’s vulnerability to force-feed people what you do, which is terrible. I decided to do what I do a long, long time ago. A lot of things have happened since then, but I’m still following my same little secret path. If something happens that shakes me off my little path, it means my path wasn’t that important anyway.

You’ve said that pop music needs to mate with the noises around it. What noises influenced "Vespertine" ?

After "Homogenic," which was such an external, confrontational album, I knew that I wanted to do the opposite, be the other me when I come home, close the door and unplug the phone, close my eyes and look for what’s inside.

Everybody around me had been obsessed with the Internet for years, but the first time I could connect with it is when I could emotionally relate to the sound world that the Internet provides. There is no oxygen there, and everything is downloaded. To me, it sounds very much like your thought process, very secretive somehow. I got obsessed with that, and laptop beats. It seemed to marry very well with the whole internal world I was creating. I picked instruments that are quiet and shy and passive and peaceful : harp, celeste and music boxes.

A word that helped me a lot making this record was "hibernation." Being internal is a form of hibernation, and I related it to winter, the sound of crystals in wintertime. That’s what I wanted this album to sound like.

Does that intimacy translate on tour ?

It is tricky. In a way, I should be playing for one person at a time. But I am playing with 74 musicians and singers every night. It’s the same principle as making "Vespertine" : A lot of people doing microscopic things.

par Greg Kot publié dans