Although this album came out well over half a year ago, I didn't buy it until recently for two different reasons, one of which is pretty silly. The first of these reasons is that the movie from which the songs are taken (Dancer In The Dark) had such a profound emotional effect on me that I had to stay away from the music from it. Although the music isn't particularly sad in and of itself, I would have been reminded of the movie (which is one of the most emotionally draining that I've seen in quite some time). While that isn't a bad thing to be reminded of a place and a time and a setting, it probably would have bummed me out a bit and I decided to leave some distance and buy the soundtrack at a later time (After all, I have all her other albums and it just wouldn't feel right having a gap in my collection).
The second reason that I couldn't bring myself to buy the release (and this is the semi-silly one) is that the release only contains 7 songs and barely over 30 minutes of music. For all intents and purposes, the release is an EP (Björk doesn't even sing on one of the songs, making her contribution about 27 minutes of time), but Elektra felt the need to charge full price for it. Call me a stickler, but I'm still sort of in a major-label boycott anyway, and I couldn't justify buying it until I found it used (which ended up being the perfect time of distancing myself from the movie anyway).
Having said the above, I feel a bit silly, because although there are only 6 songs with Björk singing, they're absolutely excellent. She once again teams up with Mark Bell for the majority of the tracks and the result is a very lush sounding release that incorporates interesting electronic elements, orchestral flourishes, and real-life sound samples like hand claps, backup shouts, and the chug-a-lug of a train engine. The album opens with "Overture," which sort of becomes the theme to the movie. The quiet, classical track starts the album nicely, but a quick changeup occurs with the second track "Cvalda." With sounds that echo a metal stamping factory (which it is in the movie), the track soon adds even more and more elements until it's a pulsing bed of clicks and clacks for Björk to intro over. Eventually, an almost fairy-tale orchestral part blooms over everything and the track transforms from clanking to sublime with all the gusto of a mainstream hollywood musical.
Things slow down a bit with the duet of "I've Seen It All" (the crux of the rhythm is made up of a sample of a train) with Thom Yorke (it was Peter Stormare in the movie). Although the lyrics seem a bit silly out of the context of the movie, it works pretty well as the track slowly layers into a thick production with stringed instruments and electronic pulses. "Scatterheart" captures beauty broken with a fractured nursery rhyme sound while "In The Musicals" is upbeat glitch-sounding masterpiece comprised of tapping toes, finger snaps, and squeaky shoes (with alternating bursts of stringed instruments and other elements). The final two tracks of the album are two of the most somber tracks on the release and close things down while leaving the listener wanting more. "107 Steps" is nothing more than counting set to exquisite music while "New World" turns the opening theme into a rumbling, trip-hop number.
Overall, Selmasongs is an excellent release, albeit a bit short (yeah, yeah, I've already mentioned it a couple times). With her upcoming release already announced for fall of 2001, it's a nice little release to tide you over until it comes, and it shows she hasn't lost a thing since her last release. With rumours of her working with Matmos (who already released the awesome A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure earlier this year), I'm salivating at the prospects.