Now time for my first real unknown entry in Bjork’s catalogue. I had this at one point but never really gave it much of a chance despite sitting through its cheery parent film Dancer in the Dark (which I tried and failed to track down on DVD this week, never mind). It’s a short one, not much more than 30 minutes, and sort of bridges the gap between Homogenic and 2001’s Vespertine. As a film score it does end up a full-on orchestral affair, but she still has licence to twist things with unusual instrumentation and strange mechanical noises to tie in with the film.
08 Overture – Well, not much to comment on here, the name gives you the right idea: orchestral swells, general buildup for the film, setup of musical motifs used throughout. I do like a good bit of classical music, and this pretty much ticks the boxes. Very majestic towards the end, lovely stuff.
07 Cvalda – And into the action we go, with some mechanical thuds and buzzes as the base for the song. A rather manic-sounding Bjork tries to sing along to this, but thankfully moves on to the dream-like verse quickly. I love the instrumentation on those bits, but the chorus really is a bit of a mess, her “clatter crash pow!” bits go even more unhinged, with some distorted brass section kicking in too. The titular Cvalda joins in, thanks to Catherine Deneuve, though she doesn’t really vary much from the verse we’d already heard. Bjork’s really bellowing out those last bits isn’t she?! A bit of a mess but not totally awful.
08 I’ve seen it all – Thom Yorke joins in on this Oscar-nominated duet, which is indirectly responsible for that amazing Bjork moment with the swan dress. I feel that this studio version loses something without the context of the film. For some reason I really hate that train-track beat that underlies it all, I can’t offer an explanation why though. Certainly memorable, I just wish I remembered the reasoning behind it. Rather offhand dismissals of supposedly amazing experiences, like seeing Niagara falls or being around newborn babies etc. I sort of like that statement of not giving a crap about these things you’re meant to get all emotional about. It’s a good duet, their harmonies don’t really work though. Love the lush string sections.
06 Scatterheart – Start to lose interest with this one, the longest song on the album at nearly 7 minutes, and doesn’t really get me excited. All dreamy and glockenspiely to start with, not really much of anything. The weird beeping and buzzing kicks in, with some meandering vocals and rising strings. I don’t really know, I can’t hook onto this. The actual singy bits in the third minute just annoy me. Shame because Scatterheart is such a great name for a song isn’t it? Only thing rescuing this from a lower mark are the strings in the last 1:20, growing very menacing towards the end, beautiful.
08 In the musicals – What an odd effect, sounds like it should be the soundbed of a basketball segment in a High School Musical movie. Adds a strange frantic pace to the song, even in the lush, bustling panoramic chorus of “There’s always someone to catch me”. The second verse is a bit more troublesome without that skittering beat, but it survives into the second gorgeous chorus. Loses its way a little over the course of 5 minutes, but still enjoyable.
08 107 Steps – A bit of an interlude now, with some counting towards something I’m presuming is not a good thing to head towards (without ruining the plot). The ponderous accompaniment confirms this early on, but Bjork makes the best of it, going into some lovely soaring vocals, even if she is just singing numbers. Actually the more I think about it, it’s all a bit conceptual, if they’d have just written some lyrics this could have been really lovely. Very climactic though.
09 New world – This was a real slow burner that I’ve really warmed up to now. Repeating some features of Overture with a few beats added, really well blended. I love the main sections, “A new world, a new day”, just keep getting that stuck in my head. It’s got such optimism despite the tone of the film at this point. The build in the second verse is really glorious, I had to check it wasn’t a David Arnold arrangement. This album has had its moments and misfires, but this is really a perfect blend of the sounds they’ve tried to involve the score. A gorgeous climax, really beautiful.
Well I got there in the end. I can see why I didn’t really get on board with this album, even when I had the context of the film, maybe I just never put it together. Either way, musically I am fond of the production as a noted fan of string sections and orchestral pieces. The experimentalism of Homogenic is reined in, though there are plenty of production quirks, notably the industrial noises used numerous times. It works sometimes, but I never liked that Stomp act, hitting dustbins etc., so it’s a bit much at times. Still, glad I revisited this, if only for New World.
Keepers for the iPod: In the musicals, New world.
Next: Vespertine (2001)