[HOT TRACK]A Curious, Beguiling Presence

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[HOT TRACK]A Curious, Beguiling Presence

The voice of the singer Bjork can strike a first-time listener as both unpleasant and irresistible. For many music fans, Bjork is an acquired taste; it may take time and even effort to appreciate her styles, which flit from quirky to dark and haunting. She is not a singer of exceptional vocal range - often instead of singing she sounds more like she's crying, overcome with emotions.

Her protean nature and outlandish modes of dress throw her fans for plenty of loops, but once the Bjork spell sets in, they're addicted. After all, you cannot expect this singer and actress to warmly sing about joie de vivre - she and her talent remain true to her frigid homeland, Iceland. Likewise, the title of Bjork's recently released fourth solo album, "Vespertine," reflects her dark side.

Bjork started her musical career at 11, encouraged by a grade school teacher. Influenced by the punk movement of the '70s, she sang in several punk and post-punk outfits in Iceland, such as Exodus and Kukl. On the day she bore a child fathered by Kukl's guitarist, the band changed its name to the Sugarcubes. In the last half of the '80s, the band, considered avant-garde, gained worldwide fame. But they split soon after due to a conflict between Bjork and another vocalist over the artistic direction of the band, and Bjork bolted to London to kick off a solo career. Early '90s London greeted her with its club culture and house music, and Bjork hooked up with Nelly Hooper, the producer of the group Massive Attack. In 1993, Bjork released "Debut." Since then, she has been experimenting with innovative sounds, as evidenced by 1997's "Homogenic."

Bjork made a major career turn last year by starring in the movie "Dancer in the Dark," which went on to win the Palm d'Or at Cannes. The festival also gave Bjork the best actress award. She has blossomed into an extraordinary artist, melding the charm of the orient with the draw of the futuristic - she wore an Alexander McQueen kimono for the photo on her first solo album.

Likewise, her latest effort puts emphasis on the intriguing, Oriental aspect of her music. The first track, "Hidden Place," features Bjork's mysterious and husky voice over an orchestrated electronic sound. The fifth, "Pagan Poetry," is notable for the harp accompaniment to Bjork's dreamy vocals. Next to the torment-charged soundtrack for "Dancer in the Dark," "Vespertine" is more structured and sophisticated, but it still won't work as a lullaby.

by Chun Su-jin

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