Flower drum songs

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As the curtain rises on Björk’s brilliant new release, Selmasongs, it’s blissfully easy to forget this short work is “only a movie sound track.” And that’s why it succeeds. A collection of seven tracks created for director Lars Von Trier’s minimalist film Dancer in the Dark, Björk’s Selmasongs wisely abandons all signs of indie film-school subtlety. Instead, she embraces the grand old Hollywood aesthetic and makes it her own — matching bigger-than-Broadway style with 21st century panache.

Of course, it’s still a sound track — filled with string sections and even a fully orchestrated instrumental theme. But with the help of arranger Vince Mendoza, Björk has reclaimed these sound track staples for her own sublimely subversive ends. Electronic beats blip. Industrial noise grinds and halts. Found sounds are located and rediscovered. And all the while, orchestral production values the size of Oklahoma ring off the mountains and echo through the trees.

Björk has created the sort of musique concrète musical that Pierre Henry or Karlheinz Stockhausen might have envisioned half a century ago (if Rodgers and Hammerstein lived next door). But at just over 32 minutes long, fans awaiting a full-length follow-up to 1997’s masterfully diverse Homogenic may find the brief Selmasongs a tease. Let’s not get too picky, though. Nobody, but nobody, sounds like Björk, and this release proves that Homogenic was not an accident or an idiot savant’s fluke.

Instead, Selmasongs is a playful hint at what unearthly delights are waiting in the wings. “I know the future,” tempts Björk on “Scatterheart.” “Don’t ask me what happens next.” We can’t help but hang in delicious anticipation.

Read Richard C. Walls' 5-star review of the film Dancer in the Dark

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