Four years ago, Björk Guðmundsdóttir released her third album Homogenic, an album that introduced humans to sounds that have never been heard before—a preview of what the future held for music. Now in 2001, Vespertine is here to pick up the pieces that Homogenic left us craving for. A beautiful, magical, mystical soundtrack, similar to Homogenic, but in a sense, more light-hearted and full of love. Although, this time around, the alien sounds are not as alien as before. It is Björk’s production techniques that really takes the music to higher elevations.
Evident on “Cocoon,” Björk’s voice lacks the familiar reverberation heard on most of her other songs, causing her voice to seem as if she were singing straight into your face. You can hear her take deep sensual breaths in between her intimate lyrics. On “Undo,” several voices are panned to the left and right ears, weaving between the normal Björk voice we have become attuned to. And on “Aurora,” the main beat of the song sounds like a person walking in snow, while Björk sings a tale of glaciers.
Ever since Debut, Björk has taken advantage of using the studio as an instrument, but never has it been so effectively done. It’s the subtleness in the production that really brings forth the creativity and originality that we have come to expect from this Iceland denizen. Aside from the production, the actual music on Vespertine seems to carry a theatrical quality, possibly taking a cue from last year’s Selmasongs. And the album even flows like a movie, drawing you into Björk’s elegant brand of sounds.
Compared to her previous albums, Vespertine retains a fairly constant mood rather than genre hopping. A bulk of the songs are angled toward the familiar love theme with a hint of the surreal lyrics that capsulated her previous works. “An Echo, A Stain” and the seven minute album closer “Unison” take advantage of the orchestra and clever drumbeat programming that is spread throughout the album. And because of the warm use of strings, the album has an uplifting quality that raises the emotion meter a couple notches. The music definitely has more open space compared to the highly structured sophomore album Post, letting the music tell the story along with the words.
Of all the albums released this year, Vespertine is one of the most impressive and cohesive. An album that caused me to occasionally shake my head in amazement. It’s not often that an album can really move you the way Vespertine has the potential to. The only let down is that fact that it didn’t puzzle or confuse me the way Homogenic did the first time I heard it. Homogenic was the kind of album that you had to aggressively listen to in order to decipher the complex music, whereas Vespertine is the kind of album that you passively let the music make its way into your body. Either way, the music eventually seeps through, and the fact remains that Björk is a true genius that has created the future of music for the present. If Homogenic was the robot with a brain, then Vespertine is the robot with a heart.