BJÖRK Vespertine Live At The Royal Opera House DVD (One Little Indian) Rating: NNNN ; Volumen DVD (One Little Indian) Rating: NNN ; Volumen Plus DVD (One Little Indian) Rating: NNN Rating: NNNN
For all their technological opportunities, DVDs are quickly becoming the CD-ROMs of the music industry. Artists release them as companion projects, tacking on a recent concert, a couple of videos and maybe some behind-the-scenes filler. They're generally uninspired and sell appropriately poorly, for the seemingly obvious reason that music videos generally have little repeated viewing value.
If there's one artist who is worthy of a DVD music video anthology, it's Bjork. Over the years, the singer's videos have evolved from peculiar three-minute clips to surreal mini-movies only tangentially related to the songs they're meant to plug. Even if you're not a fan, you can't help but be intrigued by the strange images and watch on in amazement.
Bjork also seems to be one of the few musicians who could take full advantage of the possibilities the DVD format offers. Few other artists have embraced cutting-edge technology as wholeheartedly, from her own glitchy beats to her high-concept live shows. That's precisely why these two DVD collections of music videos are such a disappointment.
Released as part of an ongoing retrospective, split between live CDs and DVDs, Volumen and Volumen Plus are best-of collections of Bjork's DVDs. Volumen ranges from 1993 to 2003, incorporating the big-band drama of It's All So Quiet, the geisha-inspired Cocoon and everything in between. Volumen Plus features seven of Bjork's most recent video clips.
The images are stunning, as is the 5.1 audio, but the releases themselves come up uncharacteristically short. Considering how eloquent Bjork is about her own music, there was enormous potential for exciting extras - from peeks at how her conceptually convoluted videos were realized to a commentary from the singer's perspective - yet it's an opportunity missed.
The Volumen sets are merely bare-bones collections and come off more as cash grabs than anything else. Even if she didn't want to give away her creative process, it would at least have been interesting to hear director Chris Cunningham talk about his romantic androids. So much more could've been done.
Better executed is the Vespertine Live At The Royal Opera House disc, which captures Bjork's stunning, absurdly ambitious Vespertine tour. The performance is an enjoyable watch, if only to see the Matmos chaps making beats out of hair-combing and stomping on gravel.
More interesting, particularly in light of Volumen's shortcomings, are the extras and interviews. Matmos's bemused responses to Bjork's asking for beats made out of the sound of exploding pussy willows and her own cryptic conversations about making "triangular, transparent" music are delightfully absurd and fascinating - precisely what's missing from the video collections. Björk and Bonnie Prince Billy play Olympic Island Wednesday (September 3).