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

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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

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)