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

Ooops Alright, I’ll Come Over

Back in 1991, a quarter of a century ago as I’m getting tired of typing/saying, Bjork made the transition from singer of oddball Icelandic indie band to dance music based solo artist look as simple as could be and this song was all part of it. 808 State’s Ex:el album was pretty groundbreaking at a time when dance acts were exploring and expanding the possibilities of the album format. Ooops is an utter delight, weird and otherworldly but still clearly rooted in 808 State’s Mancunian house. From the ascending chords in the intro to her vocal, which seems to come in and tickle your ears. ‘Ooops alright, I’ll come over and pour myself over you, jars of fun, exciting stories, I’ll make you forget’ she sings. Yup. Graham Massey’s woodwind joins in, the drums rattle away, that piano riff comes back and Bjork carries on, gurgling sweet nothings. Strange and accessible, ambient-techno, both moody and upbeat. I think we took it for granted at the time how good this sort of thing was.

Ooops

The video’s worth a look too.

There Is More To Life Than This

There’s so much stuff going on right now. Head spinning. Political parties collapsing in front of our eyes and decades old certainties vanishing. Anger all over the place.

Tonight England play Iceland at Euro 2016. I’ve loved the Icelandic team and fans. England have a real banana skin waiting for them and Roy Hodgson is under pressure to deliver after criticism of tactics, selection and strategy. England out of Europe? Twice in four days?

Prior to the Icelandic football team Bjork was their most exciting export. This song off Debut is a joy, lighthearted and in love with itself. The vocals were recorded live in the Milk Bar, London. The bit where the toilet door shuts and and the beat and muffled crowd can be heard and then re-appears shows the sense of freedom and fun that Bjork and Nellee Hooper had when recording the album. I also love the way she pronounces ghettoblaster.

There Is More To Life Than This

93

Having posted songs by Bjork and Sabres Of Paradise in the last few days, both from 1993, it struck me that that year looks like an interesting one, a really good one. I kind of took it for granted at the time. Looking at John Peel’s Festive 50 and the NME’s end of year list as a couple of starting points there’s a lot of variety and several different scenes going on. There’s a Jon Savage compilation album that came out a year ago- Perpetual Motion 1988-1993- which celebrates (in his view) a new kind of psychedelia characterised by indie-dance, house and ┬árave. Savage is currently promoting his new book 1966. I don’t think ’93 was quite as revolutionary as ’66 and it doesn’t fit into Tony Wilson’s 1955-1966-1977-1988 cycle either but there was a lot going on and more good music than you could shake a stick at.

Bjork’s Debut was fully dancefloor informed, making the switch from skittery, post-punk indie to house seem completely smooth and obvious, engineered by Nellee Hooper’s production skills (honed with Massive Attack and Soul II Soul). I’ve been soaking up Debut on the way to work this week- there’s not a weak song on it and it’s a completely alive album, full of fun and interesting, ear-catching sounds, and on half of the songs four-to-the-floor beats that keep it fresh and propelled. Andrew Weatherall put out out Sabresonic, his first fully formed album outside his production work on other group’s albums. Sabres Of Paradise preceded the album with the peerless, mighty Smokebelch II 12″. One Dove’s Morning Dove White also came out in 1993, a Weatherall produced lost classic, a morning after coming down album much loved round here and by other bloggers. Orbital’s untitled ‘green’ album came out with Chime, Satan and Belfast as its centrepieces. Leftfield and John Lydon firebombed Los Angeles. Ultramarine’s United Kingdoms drifted in and out beautifully. Underworld’s dubnobasswithmyheadman was released in January 1994, but presumably worked on to perfection through ’93. There are a multitude of other first rate house singles and records in ’93 too- Secret Knowledge’s Sugar Daddy for one, Disco Evangelists’ De Niro for another, Jaydee’s Plastic Dreams for one more. I’m sure other people can suggest others I’ve missed. Even the chartbound dance pop was properly good- Sub Sub’s Ain’t No Love. Maybe what was happening in retrospect was the last gasp of acid house as it had started in 1988, five years of innovation and ecstasy, just starting to peter out as dance music split into a hundred sub-groups. Portishead, Tricky and trip hop were just around the corner. Drum and bass too.

Peel’s list and the NME’s both have placings for the last gasps of grunge and alt-rock- Nirvana, Sugar, The Breeders, The Lemonheads, Grant Lee Buffalo, Afghan Whigs, Hole and Dinosaur Jr. The Fall have a mere ten songs in the Festive 50 and The Infotainment Scan in the NME’s albums of the year. New Order came back from hiatus with Republic, not a classic album but it’s got Regret on it. St Etienne’s So Tough refined their sound- Avenue, You’re In A Bad, Hobart Paving. Paul Weller cemented his revival with Wild Wood. Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks and The The put out good records. PJ Harvey chucked in Rid Of Me. Suede’s debut, Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish, Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps, the Manics Gold Against The Soul, The Verve’s A Storm In Heaven, Elastica and Pulp are all in there, signposting what was going to happen with Britpop but those records all have some spark and imagination about them and, Blur apart, none of the retro homogeneity of what came a year or two later. Cypress Hill, The Goats and The Pharcyde made albums that showed that hip hop still had life in it too. There’ll be loads more below the surface. I’m sure there are a lot of years you could re-look at and discover a similar diversity of sound, style and invention but 1993 seems to have it spades and somewhat under the radar too in being thought of one of those ‘classic’ years.

Some music. I don’t think I’ve ever posted PJ Harvey before, which is pretty poor of me.

More Bjork too, cos I’m in the mood…

Something Important Is About To Happen

Between 1992 and 1994 I shared a flat with a friend. We both bought records and for reasons of limited finances and common sense he bought some records and I bought others. This meant that when we went our separate ways I was short of a lot of records from that period which I knew very well but now didn’t have, some of which I filled in and some I never got around to. Years later I went to my collection looking for Debut by Bjork- and didn’t have it.

Big Time Sensuality is one of my favourite songs from the time- the throb of the bass, the rush of the synths, the sheer giddiness of the vocals- and a fantastically memorable video too. It also perfectly illustrates why Bjork went solo. Would this song have been improved by Einar shouting over it intermittently? It would not.

The version of the song that soundtracked the video single release was the Fluke mix, more clubby. The album version is here if you want to compare and contrast. And this is one of Justin Robertson’s thumping, arms-in-the-air remixes.

Big Time Sensuality (Justin Robertson Lionrock Wigout Mix)

Grapples With The Earth With Her Fingers

I was planning to post this anyway and happily reader Gentle Ben pointed it out in the comment box on Monday’s Sugarcubes remix post. Jim and William Reid also remixed Birthday, three times in fact (labelled Christmas Eve Mix, Christmas day Mix and Christmas Present Mix). They kept Bjork’s vocal and added buzzing guitars, dropping in and out in bursts, some ‘hey-hey-hey-hey’ backing vocals and a spoken word part. And some feedback. The Justin Robertson remix and these Jesus And Mary Chain ones show what good remixing should do- get the source material and take it somewhere else. All three versions are good.

On the original 1988 vinyl release these Mary Chain mixes were double grooved so depending on whether you hit one groove or the other you got one version or another. The third was on the B-side with a live song. The eight track ep, released in 1992, plays conventionally and has the Robertson mixes, Tony D remixes and The Sugarcubes demo version. Just so you know.

Birthday (Christmas Eve Mix)