Bjork: Vespertine

‘Sexy’ turn of events for Ms Gudmunsdottir

Time, then, to put away childish things. Like any concession to earthly melody or conventional vocal phrasing. Any last vestige of song structure. Any lingering foothold in clubland. Pop’s last white witch has packed up her pop tent and stolen away, back to the magic kingdom of Björkonia.

After the confinement of ‘Selmasongs’, the sense of space and solitude is what strikes you first. ‘Vespertine’ takes place in a huge and empty dreamscape of string sections and heavenly choirs, over-ripe nature imagery and pre-Christian tree worship.

The lusty, feral, growly Björkvoice has gone. Instead we get a full blast of the soaring lungburster Björkvoice on the passion-powered ‘Pagan Poetry’, in which the gathering orchestral bluster suddenly falls away while Her Royal Shyness proclaims “I love him! I love him!” to anyone within, like, 200 miles. Then there is the uncomfortably intimate, tremble-whisper Björkvoice of ‘Cocoon’ where she relates the joy of shutting herself away with her lover with a broken music box and some mouldy old string.

For once, the beats are mostly mere texture, even if each layer of static fuzz and rippled microfunk has been painstakingly applied by the finest glitch-and-twitch technicians from San Francisco to Gdansk. Harps flutter and noise machines squit politely on the shamelessly romantic widescreen symphony ‘Aurora’ and the gorgeous, celestial ballad about fate’s mysterious powers, ‘It’s Not Up To You’. Some semblance of orthodox rhythm arrives in the sun-bathed dubtronic finale ‘Unison’, which is basically that Kia-Ora “too orangey for crows” commercial sung by drunken Eskimos.

Even without the heavy (breathing) clues, [a]Bjork[/a] was clearly in full-on giddy love when she wrote all this, because the great bits of ‘Vespertine’ make you feel totally sensual and emotionally intoxicated. The annoying bits, mind you, manage to be both cloying and absurdly mannered. Thankfully, enchanting splendour is the only overriding rule in the otherwise lawless queendom of Bjorkonia. ‘Vespertine’ is way, way off the beaten track. But give it time and you’ll love it there.

Stephen Dalton