Record review

Reissues & Box Sets


Surrounded (Rhino/Elektra)

When former Sugarcube Björk went solo in the early Ninties, few were surprised that the Icelandic singer proved herself a creative juggernaut. This beautifully packaged 7-CD career retrospective traces the evolution of an artist who starts out chasing commercial trends and finds her muse. Surrounded witnesses Björk's traversing the distance between entertainment and art. Beginning with 1993 Debut, which saw Björk firmly ensconced in the dance-music genre and includes the rarity "Play Dead," Post (1995) and Homogenic (1997) follow, sustaining Björk's allegiance to house music. Selmasongs (2000), the soundtrack to Lars von Trier's gloomy Dancer in the Dark – starring Björk – marks the turning point for the artist as she straddles the line between pop culture and high art. The LPs that follow – Vespertine (2001), Medulla (2005), and the soundtrack to Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 reveal Björk as an artist unafraid to work from the fringes. The true Björk dork will hunger to have all the albums and their videos packaged together with the original CD artwork, while the audiophile will want the sonic upgrade offered by the new five-channel surround-sound remix. Unfortunately the glitchiness of the thick DualDiscs quashes some of those perks. Various players simply won't read the CDs and DVDs, and no one wants to wander through the house hoping that just one component will play these damn discs. In her 13-year tenure as a solo artist, Björk has earned the right to be as freaky as she wants to be, which probably explains why Rhino didn't include a big booklet with fawning liner notes: The work and its evolution speaks for itself. Suddenly the swan dress Björk wore to the Oscars in 2001 makes more sense. Too bad the hardware doesn't.


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