was a four-year on-and-off project for Björk
, built on dozens of casual collaborations with various friends. Yes, it's got a 60-person choir
and a 60-piece orchestra
, but most of the work went into small details: All beats on the album are created without drums
or a traditional drum machine
Instead, Björk recorded all manner of found sounds and distilled them down to their percussive essence. "I wanted microbeats -- 20 different beats in each song that faded in out out. It was like embroidery, and it took ages to do," she told MC2 magazine. The idea was to avoid the commanding, blocky beats of pop music and replace them with flexible, changing, whispery voices of percussion.
By "found sound," I mean she recorded whatever was around -- insect noises, or a spoon clinking on a cup, or her shoes crunching in the snow (the latter is what makes the "snare drum" sound on the track "Aurora"). She collected all manner of sounds on DATs and Minidisks, later processing them into usable percussion. For example -- the duo Matmos, who collect the various beats for the album, used a camera shutter for "Unison." They chopped the sound into tiny insect-like chirps and then fed them through into a sampler, where they used the sound to produce a stuttery percussion line. In most cases, there's no way for the casual listener to undistill the sounds and figure out where they came from -- and that was part of the point, Björk says.
By the way -- on top of all that percussion is an album's worth of gorgeous, sweeping, heartbreaking music.
The album was released in August 2001 after a three-month delay.
Source: MC2 magazine, Sept./Oct. 2001