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Bjork

Elektra

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Wide-eyed but dangerous, former Sugarcube and current movie star Björk has unleashed a pack of terrific albums over the last five years, each powered by the same carefully cultivated paradox. She’s an ultramodern primitive, hellbent on latching her primeval caterwaul to the surreal soundscapes that she and a cadre of producers lovingly construct out of bubblegum and transistor-radio wiring. Björk’s first solo effort was a relative dud, but by 1995’s Post, she’d found her way, breaking through to the place where her highly idiosyncratic take on electronic dance music served her songs and not the other way around. Since then, Björk has fashioned her records out of the same handful of musical ideas. But on the new Selmasongs—a soundtrack named for her character in Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark—the singer trades mostly in just one: the lush, Hollywood-musical production numbers she introduced with Post’s “It’s Oh So Quiet.” Selmasongs’ opener, “Overture,” turns the melodrama up to 11, slow-burning its way toward a fanfare of strings and horns that the closer, “New World,” reprises amid Björk’s trademark pulsating percussion and emotive vocalizing. In between, “Cvalda” combines a factory-sounds rhythm with an orchestra that carries the track somewhere over the rainbow. “In the Musicals” pulls a similar stunt, juxtaposing a rhythm track formed from the sound of closing scissors with goofy, string-swept ebullience. Only the simmering “Scatterheart” deviates much from the musicals theme, its fat, throbbing bass line and radio-transmitted vocals reminding us that, Technicolor fantasies aside, Björk’s musical imagination still resides in a futuristic Land of the Lost, a place where dinosaurs and spaceships coexist uneasily. —Shannon Zimmerman