Love Letter To A Record: Montaigne On Björk’s ‘Vespertine’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Montaigne – Vespertine by Björk (2001)


darling, as I write this I’m listening to you. I’m wearing the dress that stops mid-thigh, with my blue football socks folded below my knees and the jacket embroidered in gold flowers. my lips are red and my eyes are black-lined. my legs are crossed, and at their tips are the black shoes with the silver buckles. I have my period. I will go out after writing this into the cold night and wonder who the next person I kiss will be. will they be where I’m going tonight? will it be tonight? will they be good or bad for me? why does it matter how they are, or how I am? are there really “good” or “bad” people, or a constant shifting balance of the scales with tendencies to either quality?

I wanted to remind you that I love you. you, the sound of a breath scattering in a bedroom. the sound of a couple unable to merge fully enough as winter goads them to fuse their body heat. the sound of a young woman trying to parse the colours of her desire as she pictures it in her mind. the sound of entering and leaving, power and weakness, pleasure and pain, detachment and exquisite absorption, deliquescence into another body. the sound of Kathy Acker’s words:

“Hot female flesh on hot female flesh. And it doesn’t go anywhere: flesh. Flesh. For the cunt opens and closes, a perpetual motion machine, a scientific wonder, perpetually coming, opening and closing on itself to ecstasy or nausea — does it, you, ever tire? Roses die faster. Roses die faster than you, whores in my heart.”

and then the maker:

“Personally, I think choosing between men and women is like choosing between cake and ice cream. You’d be daft not to try both when there are so many different flavours.”

ululating, moaning, whispering is the voice that delivers you and it questions the borders, categories, and titles of desire. on the surface simplicity! but the darkest pit in me! desire is an unquenchable thirst, a renewable energy, a force of nature that makes one feel as delicate as a flower, as scintillant and small as the tinkling bells and chimes that echo through Frosti. on the other hand, it makes one feel full to bursting, it is crushing, it is loud in your body, it is as all-consuming as the swell of violins and angelic choirs halfway through Undo. if you’re crying, undo.

you are the great poetry that describes love and sex, which gave me a landscape for those things to whose sky I could take off and fly. keep it in a hidden place. a vista sometimes terrifying, infused with love or with the unknown, with a mystery. an act that women are so shamed for in the world we live in, you skip the permissions and show me what is erotic, what is transgressive, what is dark, what is good. I want to kiss a boy, I want to kiss a girl when I listen to you. and you tell me that that is a magical thing to feel. it is a scary thing, can be threatening, can be compromising. unthinkable surprises/about to happen/but what they are/it’s not up to you. I want to touch myself when I listen to you. you tell me that that is a transcendent ceremony to perform. a flower constantly unfurling, approaching asymptotes, never arriving at the answer. good for its own sake and not for any other reason.

with chasteness

of sea-girls

will I complete

the mystery

of my flesh

and then fear, fear, fear. you turn the fear into beauty. I wonder what Eartha Kitt would have to say about the song Unison, actually. hearing those words out of Björk’s mouth. I never thought I would compromise. the thing is, I listen to this record, and I forget about what is good or bad or right or wrong for a moment. there is this suspended space for me to lust/want/desire for whatever it is I irrationally want.

that is why you are my great love, vespertine. you uncovered to me and stripped away the shame from the most exquisite part of desire and love: forgetting how to think.

I hope the sunsets are always nice in your weird intangible dimension, wherever it is that music goes when it eats, sleeps, fucks.



Montaigne’s new album Complex is out this Friday, 30th August – you can pre-order it here. Montaigne will launch the album with a national tour this November – head here to check out dates.

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