Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2000

Bjork delivers colorful vocals, unearthly power

September 28, 2000

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Danish director Lars von Trier knew Bjork Gudmundsdottir, the iconoclastic Icelandic pop star, was perfect to create the music to his brooding film "Dancer in the Dark."

Her meld of industrial sounds and symphonic surges with occasional flights into "Broadway" razzmatazz perfectly suited his story of a factory worker who escaped her dim life and a murder conviction by imagining musicals.

It turned out Bjork was the best person to star in the film, too. At Cannes, where "Dancer in the Dark" won the Palm D'or, she won best actress. With the film opening in New York, the focus is on her acting debut. But what of the music she created?

Although Bjork said she got completely inside the character of Selma to write the songs, the pieces on "Selmasongs" (Elektra Records) are not so out of line with the kind of music that have made Bjork's solo albums since 1995's "Post" exceptional achievements. With a huge orchestra led by Connecticut-born Vincent Mendoza to aid at any time, there are more orchestral swells than before. But those always sound fitting alongside Bjork's Technicolor vocals, which from her early days in the Sugarcubes had the ability to widen with unearthly power as needed.

One gets a good sense of the movie from tracks that expertly blend industrial sounds from a factory here, a train there, into a pop song. Music-box notes and lyrics on magic aid her pixie-like approach. And her duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke (sounding much different, for some reason) is notable.

Clocking in at 32 minutes (including a five-minute instrumental overture) and with just seven tracks, "Selmasongs" almost qualifies more as an EP than a full album at a time when CDs are routinely twice as long.

Back in the vinyl days, 32 minutes counted as a full-length work. But even then the full price never approached the $18.98 list price on "Selmasongs." Still, Bjork fans will find it difficult to live without her remarkable latest work.

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