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)

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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

Squeaky

I mentioned LFO yesterday so it seems appropriate to follow up with something from their back catalogue. LFO were a Leeds based duo (Jez Varley and Mark Bell) who put out bass heavy techno and bleep ‘n’ bass on Sheffield’s Warp Records. This track is a monster, the first track on their 1991 ep What Is House? Not as sparse as yesterday’s Testone, Squeaky has a long, winding, descending synth noise, tough drums and lashings of sub-bass. Pretty abstract and in many ways quite extreme.

Squeaky

Jez left in 1996 leaving Mark on his own as LFO. He went on to work extensively with Bjork, remixing her and becoming part of her band for her Homogenic and Volta tours. This remix of Possibly Maybe chops up and distorts Bjork so much it bears little relation to the original song. Sadly, Mark Bell died in 2014.

Every Morning I Walk Towards The Edge

I was reminded of this song on social media the other day and it re-awakened the song for me. Hyperballad swoops in from somewhere else, from Bjork’s imagination and Nellee Hooper’s fingertips, picks you up and carries you off for a few minutes, somewhere else entirely. Not so much a song, more a force of nature. There’s nothing ordinary, prosaic or run-of-the-mill about Hyperballad. Bjork’s own explanations of it, about being a few years into a relationship and making it feel alive and ‘the art of not forgetting about yourself’ add to the song (sometimes when artists explain what I song is about I wish they hadn’t bothered). The music sweeps by in a rush of rhythms and textures, brilliantly and beautifully.

Hyperballad

Lift Going Up

A couple of weeks ago I posted 808 State and Bjork’s Ooops off 1991’s Ex:el album. Ctel then posted a recent remix of In Yer Face from the same album so I went back and listened to the whole thing for the first time in ages. 1991 has been all over the internet in the last few days, mainly because September 1991 saw the release of Screamadelica, Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque, Nirvana’s Nevermind and A Tribe Called Qwest’s Low End Theory amongst others. Not a bad month all things considered. In November My Bloody Valentine put out Loveless. Ex:el came out in May so pre-empted the autumn rush but what a good album it is. Both Bjork songs are superb, In Yer Face is techno heaven, then there’s the Bernard Sumner sung Spanish Heart, Cubik, Olympic and the spooky Nefertiti. It also uses the Willy Wonka Gene Wilder sample- ‘we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams’. Tucked away inside Ex:el is this, Lift, a wonderful, uplifting, updating of Kraftwerk with rave drums.

Lift