Two Suns Ready To Shine Just For You

Last Thursday The Vinyl Villain posted a review of Bjork’s Debut from the NME in 1993. Debut is one of the musical high points of the 90s, a record that is giddily in love with music and possibilities of sound. Producer Nellee Hooper constructed the perfect sonic palette for Bjork’s ideas. Songs like There’s More To Life Than This, Big Time Sensuality and Violently Happy reflected the club culutre of the times, nights Bjork had spent with 808 State soaking up the music and the spirit of the times. On One Day they produced a real gem, a song that starts out with a little synth part and a giggling child, a beautiful bassline and then a heartbeat kick drum before Ms. Gudmundsdottir swoops in. The part at one minute nine seconds where the song shifts gear is heart-stopping and there are some beautiful little sonic touches- a bent guitar note, some backwards wobbles, a whistle. Bjork meanwhile sings her heart out ‘one day/ it will happen/ one day/ it will all make sense’ and ‘I can feel it’

One Day

Andrew Weatherall and the Sabres Of Paradise boys produced three remixes of One Day. On the Endorphin mix they keep Bjork’s vocal but slow things down to a glacial pace with a booming kettle drum underpinnng it.

One Day (Endorphin Mix)

Never Get To Zion Without Jah Love

Bringing together several recent themes today I’m offering you some prime Underworld remixes from the mid 90s, a time when we could actually feel fairly optimistic about the world.

Underworld have been all over my stereo recently with the Drift Series 1 Sampler (posted at the weekend). In addition the 90s incarnation of Underworld (Hyde, Smith and Emerson) were at The Vinyl Villain fairy recently with their epic ten minute remix of Human Behaviour- a beat heavy, tribal techno delight, Bjork skipping into the night, called by the drums.

Dreadzone have made a career out of righteous dance- floor based sounds, dub, reggae, techno and progressive house mixed into a heady stew with some politics in there to shake it all up. In Zion Youth singer Earl 16 give the wrongdoers a simple message- heads up Tories…

‘You’ll never get to Zion without Jah love
Never reach that land you’re dreaming of
You must be good you must be careful
Live upright like you know you should…

…No evildoers will be there
No backstabbers will be there’

This remix is a ten minute long excursion- a looped keyboard part, Earl’s voice, some echoey, whooshing noises bouncing around and those trademark Underworld rhythms building up a head of steam. There’s a break down at eight minutes in and then it’s all back on the dub techno train to the fade.

Zion Youth (Underworld Mix)

I have pondered before about an Underworld remix album, a compilation of the cream of their 90s remixes, and am really surprised no one ever put one out, especially in the heyday of CDs when a double disc remix edition would have surely been a winner.

This one from 1993 would have made the cut, a thirteen minute rejigging of William Orbit’s Water From A Vine Leaf, a stomping chugger of the highest order. In among all the sonics there’s a magnificent piano riff that is worth the price of entry alone, a parping synth part, a nagging upper register synth riff that goes straight to the back of the brain, a snatch of Beth Orton’s vocal and a squiggly acid bassline that would cut straight through the dry ice- layers of sounds aimed at feet and the head.

Water From A Vine Leaf (Underwater Mix Part 1) 

Here’s the 1993 remix of Bjork, the 110 BPM version from the A-side of the 12″. On the flip was a faster one, the 125 BPM Dub, but to my mind this is the pick of the pair. The build up alone is longer (and better) than many songs. This sort of thing could pack a dance-floor tight in the early/mid 90s.

Human Behaviour (The Underworld Mix 110BPM)

This could run and run and I have posted some of these before- there are some heavy duty One Dove remixes, a pair of very techno Chemical Brothers bangers, a tasty remix of The Drum Club’s Sound System, a fifteen minute St Etienne remix, Orbital’s Lush and some outliers like Front 242 and Shakespeare’s Sister (neither of which it seems I own either digitally of physically).

Bjork, Graham And Justin

Bjork in 1993 was a joy, making records that were fully influenced by club culture, records filled with rhythm and joie de vivre that also sounded great. She was a joy to look at too. Her songs were remixed to great effect by the best people of the day- I’ve posted the Sabres Of Paradise mixes of One Day before, Black Dog warped her and the Fluke versions of Big Time Sensuality are the definite versions for me. There are two more here, one from 808 State’s Graham Massey, a man in large part responsible for Bjork’s dancefloor experiences in and around Manchester in the early 90s, and one from Justin Robertson, resident of an M postcode at the time.

Big Time Sensuality (Justin Robertson’s Prankster’s Joyride)

Violently Happy (Graham Massey Long Mix)

Well Tempered

Fluke were a British acid house/techno group who put out a very good album on Creation (The Techno Rose Of Blighty, 1991) and went on to release several others and then went on to provide music for film soundtracks (The Matrix amongst others). But in some ways their best work was the remixes they did of other artists in the early 90s. They worked on several singles for Bjork’s Debut including the definitive version of Big Time Sensuality and this magnificent, shimmering, rushing, dancefloor reworking of Violently Happy.

Violently Happy (Fluke Well Tempered)

This remix of  Spooky was the fourth single from their 1993 Republic album (and there is a sign of how things had changed- New Order on Factory would never have done something as major label as releasing 4 singles off an album). One of the (few) highlights of the album and its related singles were the 3 remixes Fluke did of Spooky.

Spooky (Magimix)

This Wasn’t Supposed To Happen

I was in Top Shop the other day- with my teenage daughter, just to provide some context- and this song started playing over the in-store sound system.

Hit

It took me a moment to place it but it sounded really good, thumping away over the bright lights and rails of clothes. Its unexpectedness, a 27 year old song in among what they’d been playing beforehand, was part of it. But it sounded good on its own terms too- the loose early 90s drums, the synth horns and funky guitar riff and Bjork’s vocals (Einar’s contribution too). I always think that as a band they never matched the songs on Life’s Too Good but at the tail end of 2017 I was proved wrong. I’m happy to be proved wrong with music.

As a bonus here they are on The Word in December 1991 (the sound is a bit patchy I’m afraid).

Motorcrash

In August 1987 The Sugarcubes released Birthday, an instant indie hit thanks to John Peel and the music press, a record so different and otherworldly that almost on its own it took the band round the world. I’ve posted it before, twice. The following year they put out Life’s Too Good, an album with Birthday plus nine slices of high octane Icelandic guitar-pop. I’ve included many of them, Delicious Demon and Fucking In Rhythm And Sorrow especially, on compilation tapes and mix cds ever since. Motorcrash was the last single from the lp, released to promote their US tour at the end of ’88, a tour which saw them wined and dined and play at The Ritz in New York with Bowie and Iggy in attendance.
During the American tour they played Saturday Night Live, which you can watch here. The performance by co-vocalist Einar Orn which illustrates exactly why Bjork would eventually go solo. In this clip they play Auburn, Alabama with similar results- blistering band, brilliant lead vocalist, irritating co-vocalist.

The Gate

It seems to me that at some point around the turn of the millennium Bjork lost the sense of fun that characterised her 90s solo work. Debut and Post were informed by dance music and possibility, inventive and arty at the same time, but full of life and with a pop sensibility. She has continued to make art but the artier its become, the more multimedia the packages, the more difficult I’ve found it to engage with and enjoy. Often very impressive but not always that much fun. Her last album was a traumatic divorce record. I understand why she made it but I haven’t played it very often. She’s just released a new song called The Gate, the first from a new album, and it is about rebirth, hope, moving forward, a utopia compared the the self described ‘hell’ of Vulnicura. The video is dazzling, a bit hippy-dippy, but dazzling. The song is over six minutes long and while it never quite leaps forward and takes off like I expected it to the first time I heard it, it sounds a step into the light and part of an album that might be fun to listen to.

And as a reminder of what she gave us back in 1993 here’s Come To Me, a song about the giddiness of falling in love and absolute devotion, set to a some softly padding drums, a haze of synths and sounds, and strings that sweep in to set your skin ablaze.

 

Come To Me