Bjork’s Unravel

In anticipation of Björk’s new album coming out in October, I have been revisiting her albums. One song that sticks out to me is “Unravel” off of Homogenic. It is a companion piece to “Unison” in that they both use the same mode (Lydian) and basic chord progression (I-II-(vii)-I). While this is taken to a grand scale in “Unison,” Björk keeps it simple here.

The song’s intro is a gradual unfolding of the harmonic material. It begins with the tonic (C) moving to the second scale step (D). The vocal improvisations introduce the other notes of the scale: D-E-D-C-B; D-E-F#-G. The final note (A) comes from the synth pad after the first vocal run.

The melody hovers around the fifth of the mode (G), which lends it a “floating” quality. As this is the root of the related major scale, it is also established as a strong tonal center. Without the accompaniment, one would think the song to be set in G major; those pesky C major chords keep it from going that way, though. It’s almost as if a melody originally composed in G major was grafted onto a chord progression in C Lydian.

I’m thinking of creating an instrumental version that accentuates the song’s process of ‘unraveling’ a tonality. If I use different instruments in the same range, I think I can bring out the tension between the Lydian mode and the major scale. It might be a time to mess around with Match EQ in Logic. It’s possible to blend their harmonic content to make a saxophone sound a little more like a clarinet, for instance.

“Unravel” is one of Björk’s most beautiful songs, one that reminds us that love is a process, not something you obtain and automatically have forever.

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