Vespertine

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For the term used in reference to phenomena observed during the evening hours, see Vespertine (biology).
Vespertine
Studio album by Björk
Released 27 August 2001
Recorded 2000–2001
Genre Electronica,[1] experimental,[2] musique concrète,[3] psychedelic,[4] ethereal wave[5]
Length 55:33
Label One Little Indian
Producer Björk, Thomas Knak, Martin Gretschmann, Marius de Vries
Björk chronology
Selmasongs
(2000)
Vespertine
(2001)
Greatest Hits
(2002)
Singles from Vespertine
  1. "Hidden Place"
    Released: 6 August 2001
  2. "Pagan Poetry"
    Released: 5 November 2001
  3. "Cocoon"
    Released: 11 March 2002

Vespertine is the fifth studio album by the Icelandic recording artist Björk, released on 27 August 2001. The album featured chamber orchestras, choirs, hushed vocals, microbeats made from household sounds, and personal, vulnerable themes. She collaborated with experimental sound manipulators Matmos, Denmark-based DJ Thomas Knak, and the experimental harpist Zeena Parkins for the album. Lyrical sources included the works of American poet E. E. Cummings, the American independent filmmaker Harmony Korine, and English playwright Sarah Kane's penultimate play, Crave.

To coincide with the album's release, Björk released a coffee table book of loose prose and photographs titled Björk.[6] Björk embarked on a tour of theatres and opera houses in Europe and North America in support of the album, accompanied by the musicians Matmos and Zeena Parkins and an Inuit choir, whom she had held auditions for on a trip to Greenland prior to the tour.[7]

The album yielded the singles "Hidden Place", "Pagan Poetry" and "Cocoon". The album's lead single, "Hidden Place", is the only single from the album to have charted in the United States.[8] At the time, Vespertine was Björk's quickest selling album ever, having sold two million copies by the end of 2001 and went gold in France and Canada and silver in the UK.[9]

Vespertine was widely acclaimed by music critics. Both Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club and David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine named Vespertine Björk's best album to date. A more lukewarm review came from Pitchfork Media who thought that "While undeniably beautiful, Vespertine fails to give electronic music the forward push it received on Björk's preceding albums" and that the album "is riddled with sameness."

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100, Vespertine currently holds a rating of 88/100, indicating universal acclaim.[10] The album is also ranked No.55 on Metacritic's 200 best-reviewed albums.[11] It was also nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards.

Composition[edit]

"The Björkian soundfield is much as it always is: skittering rhythms, warm keyboard tones, discreet "laptronic" pulses, plinking harps and swooshing strings, a general meshing of organic and synthetic textures. But her unique sonic palette is harnessed here in the service of hushed awe: womblike intimacy and occasional ecstasy."

— Wondering Sound describing the sound of Vespertine.[12]

Björk uses an array of sampled objects to create beats and soundscapes in a number of songs on Vespertine, including shuffling cards on "Cocoon" and "Hidden Place"; snow being walked upon on "Aurora", and ice being cracked and smashed on "Frosti". Vespertine is Björk's longest album, at 55:33. The instrumentals in "Heirloom" is a song by Console entitled "Crabcraft". Several CD track naming programs, such as Gracenote, label the song "Heirloom" as "Crabcraft" when the album is placed inside a computer. According to David Fricke of Rolling Stone, "Vespertine is the closest any pop-vocal album has come to the luxuriant Zen of the new minimalist techno."[13]

The general lyrical themes of the album are sex and love. Björk explores sex very openly and thoroughly on Vespertine, abstaining largely from the metaphors often employed by popular music. She makes use of the quiet and close sound of the album to convey the idea of intimacy, and lyrically explores the emotional and cerebral sides of sex rather than simply the sensation.

The lyrics to "An Echo, a Stain" are based on Sarah Kane's play Crave. Björk adapted the lyrics of "Sun in My Mouth" from the poem "I Will Wade Out" by E. E. Cummings. The word "sea-girls" is changed to "seagulls", and the last few lines of the poem are omitted. The lyrics of "Harm of Will" were written by Harmony Korine and are allegedly about Will Oldham.

The initial title for the album was Domestika. A song titled "Domestica" (originally titled "Lost Keys") was included as a B-side on the "Pagan Poetry" single. Björk has stated several reasons why the album was called "Vespertine" instead of "Domestika". She felt that calling the album "Domestika" would have been "too much", because the songs on the album were already "domestic" enough, so she turned to other aspects of the album in order to name it. One of these is the prayer aspect of the album: "vespers" are evening prayers. The other reason is that the word "vespertine" relates to night time, for example things that come out at night. Björk felt that this theme was also present on the album. In the song "It's Not Up To You", she sings "The evening I've always longed for, it could still happen". Björk said in an interview with NME that "It sounds like a winter record," and that "If you wake up in the middle of the night and you go in the garden, everything's going on out there that you wouldn't know about. That's the mood I'm trying to get. Snow owls represent that pretty well."[14]

On 22 August 2008, Björk wrote an open letter on her official website correcting a long-standing mistake—that Valgeir Sigurðsson has over the years been credited with writing the instrumentals for the album. She explained that, in fact, he had been only an engineer and programmer on some of the tracks on the album and speculated that the reason for the mistake was either due to sexism in the music industry, ignorance between the roles of engineers and programmers, or because neither she nor Sigurðsson had ever bothered to correct it.[15]

Packaging[edit]

On the cover she can be seen wearing the swan dress (designed by Marjan Pejoski) that caused a stir at the 2001 Academy Awards. The CD inlay card contains drawings on both sides. Since the back of the CD jewel case is made of white plastic (with a sticker listing the tracks), only the inner side drawing is visible. To look at the other side's drawing, the CD packaging must be disassembled.

Release[edit]

Björk performing at the Radio City Music Hall in 2001

Early versions of the album were leaked onto the internet with some differences to the final release. Tracks were in a different order, the song "It's in Our Hands" was originally included (replaced by the instrumental "Frosti" on the final version), the song "It's Not Up to You" was not included, and some tracks appeared under different titles, including "Pagan Poetry" ("Blueprint"), "Cocoon" ("Mouth") and "Heirloom" ("Crabcraft" or "New"). Also, a remix of "An Echo, a Stain" was included.:[16] Vespertine was released in August, 2001 on double LP record, CD and Cassette.[17] The album went at number 1 in the US Billboard Top Electronic Albums, as well as going at number 19 in the Billboard 200 and number 8 in the UK Albums Chart. At the time, Vespertine was Björk's quickest selling album ever, having sold two million copies by the end of 2001 and it went silver in the UK and gold in France and Canada.[9]

Björk embarked on a tour of theatres and opera houses in Europe and North America in support of the album, accompanied by the musicians Matmos and Zeena Parkins and an Inuit choir, whom she had held auditions for on a trip to Greenland prior to the tour.[7] At the time, Vespertine was Björk's quickest selling album ever, having sold two million copies by the end of 2001.[9]

Vespertine spawned three singles: "Hidden Place," "Pagan Poetry," and "Cocoon." MTV2 played the album's first video, "Hidden Place," which was subsequently released as a DVD single. However, the next video, for "Pagan Poetry," brought Björk to an even higher level of controversy with the channel. As a result, the clip was initially rarely shown by MTV, and certain parts (for example, Björk's breasts) were censored during the rare occasions when it was played. In 2002, the clip finally enjoyed unedited American airing as part of a late night special on MTV2 titled, "Most Controversial Music Videos." "It's Not Up to You" may have been meant to be the fourth single—a sticker on the CD case proclaims "features ‹Hidden Place› and ‹It's Not Up to You›"—but never made it to release, presumably because of the birth of Björk's daughter Isadora.

2002 saw the appearance of the CD box set Family Tree containing a retrospective of Björk's career, comprising many previously unreleased versions of her compositions, including her work with the Brodsky Quartet. Also released alongside Family Tree was the album Greatest Hits, a retrospective of the previous 10 years of her solo career as deemed by the public. The songs on the album were chosen by Björk's fans through a poll on her website. A DVD edition of the CD was also released. It contained all of Björk's solo music videos up to that point. The new single from the set, "It's In Our Hands," charted in the UK at number 37. The video, directed by Spike Jonze, features a heavily pregnant Björk.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 88/100 [10]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[18]
About.com 5/5 stars[19]
Alternative Press 8/10 [20]
The A.V. Club favourable [21]
Entertainment Weekly B+ [22]
NME 8/10 [23]
Robert Christgau A− [24]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[13]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4.5/5 stars[25]
Uncut 4/5 stars[26]

Vespertine was widely acclaimed by music critics. Both Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club and David Fricke of Rolling Stone magazine named Vespertine Björk's best album to date. Allmusic stated that "Vespertine isn't merely lovely; it proves that in Björk's hands, intimacy can be just as compelling as louder emotions", while Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine said the album is "nothing short of brilliance." Ian Wade also praised the album awarding it 9 stars out of 10. A more lukewarm review came from Pitchfork Media who thought that "While undeniably beautiful, Vespertine fails to give electronic music the forward push it received on Björk's preceding albums" and that the album "is riddled with sameness."

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100, Vespertine currently holds a rating of 88/100, indicating universal acclaim.[10] The album is also ranked No.55 on Metacritic's 200 best-reviewed albums.[11] It was also nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards. In 2006, music webzine Drowned in Sound named Vespertine the number-one album of the previous six years not to garner press attention.[27] Stylus Magazine placed it 36th on their 'Top 50 Albums: 2000–2005'.[28] Vespertine was also selected as one of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[29] The record was also rated by Slant Magazine as the 3rd best of the 2000s.[30]

Online music magazine Pitchfork Media placed Vespertine at number 92 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s.[31]

The album peaked at number eight on the UK Albums Chart and at number 19 on the U.S. Billboard 200 with sales of 75,000 copies. It also reached number one in Spain, France and Norway and had sold four million copies by the end of 2001.[citation needed]

The album was placed at number 67 on the Rolling Stone magazine 100 Best Albums of the 2000s.[2]

Music videos[edit]

The music video for Hidden Place was directed by art directors/graphic designers M/M Paris as well as photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. It featured various fluids flowing in and out of Björk's facial orifices, such as her eyes, nose, and mouth. The idea was first thought for the "I've Seen It All" music video, but was later cancelled. A video was shot for "Pagan Poetry", directed by Nick Knight, which as stated on its making of page "is about a woman preparing herself for marriage and for her lover". It was also one of Björk's most controversial because of the highly blurry and stylized images of explicit sex it contains, including fellatio and ejaculation, and also images of big needles sewing pearls to the skin. The second half of the video features Björk in a dress designed by Alexander McQueen, which covers only the lower portion of her body. The upper portion of the dress consists of pearls piercing her skin, which is shown throughout the first half.[32] At the end of the video, there is a shot of her back with several rings sewn onto it. The video was banned by MTV in the United States, but was eventually shown in unedited form on MTV2 in a presentation of the "20 Most Controversial Music Videos".[citation needed]

About the video, Nick Knight explained "I wanted to strip her down. She's actually quite raw, womanly and sexy. There's a different side to her that doesn't come across normally in her videos. That's what I asked her to do and that's what she did." When asked if Björk was the one who plays the sexual acts as well, he explained "I gave her [Björk] a Sony Mini DV camera and asked her to shoot her own private scenes [...] She asked me to make a film about her love life, so I merely gave it back to her and said 'Film your love life'."[33]

The final music video, "Cocoon", was released from Vespertine in 2002. The music video was nearly as controversial as the previous one for "Pagan Poetry". The "Cocoon" video was directed by Eiko Ishioka. It shows Björk, apparently naked (though actually wearing a very close fitting 'nude' body suit), with her hair styled to resemble a geisha. She is on her own under a simple spotlight, before red threads start emerging from out of her nipples. Throughout the video, she is found playing with the threads before they eventually develop a cocoon around her, until she is completely cocooned. Like the video for "Pagan Poetry", it was banned from prime-time MTV.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Hidden Place"   Björk 5:28
2. "Cocoon"   Björk, Thomas Knak 4:28
3. "It's Not Up to You"   Björk 5:08
4. "Undo"   Björk, Knak 5:38
5. "Pagan Poetry"   Björk 5:14
6. "Frosti" (Interlude) Björk 1:41
7. "Aurora"   Björk 4:39
8. "An Echo, a Stain"   Björk, Guy Sigsworth 4:04
9. "Sun in My Mouth"   Björk, E.E. Cummings, Sigsworth 2:40
10. "Heirloom"   Björk, Console 5:12
11. "Harm of Will"   Björk, Sigsworth, Harmony Korine 4:36
12. "Unison"   Björk 6:45
Sample credits

Personnel[edit]

Production
  • Björk – arranger, producer, programming, beat programming, basslines, strings arrangements, choir arrangements, harp arrangements, music box arrangements, vocal editing, sounds recording, field recording
  • Valgeir Sigurðsson – programming, beat programming, Pro Tools, engineer
  • Martin Gretschmann aka Console – producer, programming
  • Jake Davies – programming, Pro Tools, engineer
  • Matthew Herbert – programming
  • Leigh Jamieson – Pro Tools
  • Thomas Knak – production, programming
  • Jan "Stan" Kybert – Pro Tools
  • Matmos – programming, beat programming
  • Vince Mendoza – string arrangements, choir arrangements, orchestration
  • Zeena Parkins – harp, harp arrangements
  • Jack Perron – adaptation to music box
  • Guy Sigsworth – programming, beat programming, celeste, celeste arrangements, clavichord, clavichord arrangements, choir arrangements
  • Mark "Spike" Stent – mixing
  • Damian Taylor – programming, beat programming, Pro Tools
  • Caryl Thomas – harp
  • Marius de Vries – producer, programming, beat programming
Additional musicians
  • Patrick Gowers – Composer of Vocal and Organ Arrangements on Unison
  • St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, conducted by John Scott – Choir on Unison
Packaging
  • M/M Paris – art direction, design and drawing
  • Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin – photography

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gittins, Ian. "Vespertine: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "100 Best Albums of the 2000s: Bjork, 'Vespertine'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Plagenhoef, Scott (9 June 2004). "Björk: Debut Live / Post Live / Homogenic Live / Vespertine Live". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "Björk - "Vespertine" (Elektra)". The Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas). 30 June 2001. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Widder, Katy (28 August 2001). "Björk: Vespertine". PopMatters. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  6. ^ Björk : book, A project by Björk Official Bjork website. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Bjork Gets Orchestric: Bjork". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 28 February 2011. Retrieved 6 August 2001. 
  8. ^ Top Music Charts - Hot 100 - Billboard 200 - Music Genre Sales[dead link]
  9. ^ a b c Q Magazine, February 2002, Q Concert Review, "Björk – Haskolaboi, Reykjavik", by Nick Duerden.
  10. ^ a b c Vespertine at Metacritic Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  11. ^ a b "Highest and Lowest Scoring Music and Albums at Metacritic". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  12. ^ "Icon: Björk". Wondering Sound. September 9, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b Fricke, David (2001-08-20). "Vespertine". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-04-28. 
  14. ^ "The Twilight World of Björk". NME. 11 August 2001. 
  15. ^ "bjork.com / news". Pinnacle.bjork.com. 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  16. ^ "Free Music Downloads : Download Free Mp3s Legally from our website, Listen to Music Online". Bjork-art1559.mp3-2000.com. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "Vespertine at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Vespertine at AllMusic
  19. ^ "Bjork Vespertine - Review of Bjork's Definitive Alternative Album Vespertine". Altmusic.about.com. 2001-08-27. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  20. ^ Oct 2001, p.77
  21. ^ Phipps, Keith (19 April 2002). "Björk: Vespertine | Music | Music Review". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  22. ^ "Music Review: Vespertine, by Björk". Entertainment Weekly. 20 August 2001. 
  23. ^ "NME Album Reviews - Bjork: Vespertine". Nme.Com. 2005-09-12. Retrieved 2011-09-29. 
  24. ^ "CG: Björk". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  25. ^ Writer, Guest. "Björk - Vespertine | Music Review". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  26. ^ Sep 2001, p.104
  27. ^ Diver, Mike (31 October 2006). "Features – DiS is 6: Our 66, the top six". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  28. ^ "The Top 50 Albums: 2000–2005 – Article". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  29. ^ "Outline Page". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  30. ^ Slant staff (1 February 2010). "Best of the Aughts 10-1". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 16 June 2010. 
  31. ^ Pitchfork staff (30 September 2009). "The Top 200 Albums of the 2000s: 100-51". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 1 October 2009. 
  32. ^ Alien Rock. "The Light of Love: The Making of the Pagan Poetry Video". Bjork.com. 2002.
  33. ^ http://unit.bjork.com/specials/gh/SUB-07/making/index.htm
  34. ^ "Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA): Gold & Platinum". Cria.ca. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  35. ^ "Disque en France". Disque en France. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  36. ^ "Certified Awards Search". Retrieved 2011-10-07. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tragic Epilogue by Anti-Pop Consortium
The Wire's Record of the Year
2000
Succeeded by
Murray Street by Sonic Youth