Unauthorised item in the bagging area

Sunday 8 January 2023

An Hour Of Björk

A month ago Khayem did a fairly definitive recreation of a Björk mixtape centred around her 1993 solo debut Debut. I'd been planning on doing a Björk Sunday mix here for some time and almost shelved the idea but a few days ago decided to go ahead. Debut and its surrounding singles and remixes are massively important songs and records for me, so resonant of a time in my life where it seems looking back like it was perpetual weekend. In Big Time Sensuality she sings, 'I don't know my future after this weekend/ And I don't want to', a line summing up how life felt. Almost everywhere we went Björk's songs were being played, stitched into the fabric of mid- 90s nightlife. When my then flatmate brought Debut home we played it constantly, the album seeping into our every day life. If I had to draw up a list of the albums which mean the most to me, Debut would be on it. It's hugely innovative too, Björk and producer Nellee Hooper inspired by the previous few years changes and freedoms, the sounds and rhythms, creating something self contained, optimistic, joyous and life affirming, a record in love with itself and with endless possibility. 

I've expanded the mix below beyond Debut but there's nothing post- 1997, it's all 20th century Björk. Her output from the 21st century can be obtuse and bewildering at times (and incredible at others), and it needs a mix of its own. My Sunday mixes have tended to be between thirty and forty five minutes long, the ideal length for a trip out (or one side of a tape, subconsciously maybe). Once I started this one it just kept getting longer and having reached the forty minute mark I couldn't leave off Underworld's marathon remix of Human Behaviour so what we have here is an hour of Björk Guðmundsdóttir, her unique vision and singing accompanied by a cast of like minded collaborators- the production of Nellee Hooper is an essential part of Debut and Graham Massey of 808 State played a pivotal role in her solo adventures beyond the Sugarcubes as the 80s became the 90s. Listening back to this last night I was struck by how good everything here still sounds, from the giddy skipping pop- acid house of Big Time Sensuality to the dislocating oddness of The Black Dog's version of The Anchor Song. She's brilliant and we're lucky to have her.  

An Hour Of  Björk

  • One Day (Sabres of Paradise Endorphin Mix)
  • Ooops
  • Big Time Sensuality (Fluke Minimix)
  • Violently Happy (Fluke Well Tempered Mix)
  • There's More To Life Than This (Recorded Live In The Milk Bar Toilets)
  • Hyperballad
  • Venus As A Boy (7" Dream Mix)
  • Army Of Me
  • The Anchor Song (The Black Dog Mix)
  • QMart
  • Human Behaviour (Underworld Remix 110BPM)
  • You've Been Flirting Again (Icelandic Version)

One Day was remixed not once but three times by Andrew Weatherall's Sabres Of Paradise. All three are superb, increasing in length, intensity and tempo. There was a 10" single with two of the remixes, the Endorphin Mix and the Springs Eternal Mix titled Björk Cut By Sabres, and then a six track compilation in 1994 called The Best Mixes From The Debut Album For People Who Don't Buy White Labels which rounded up all three Sabres remixes, the twelve minute Underworld monster and the two Black Dog remixes. I included The Black Dog's remix of The Anchor Song here too although it could easily have been the one of Come To Me. Such is the embarrassment of riches of Björk all six remixes could have/ should have been included here.

In 1991 808 State released ex:el, one of the period's  best dance albums although it tends to get a bit overlooked now. Björk's co- wrote and sang on two songs, the magnificent, slow burning sex- techno of Ooops and QMart. This sparked a long running song- writing partnership with 808's Graham Massey. Björk had loved 808 State's 1989 album 90 and phoned them up out of the blue looking for some help with drum programming. She flew to Manchester the next day. The 808 State boys showed Björk round the sights and clubs of Manchester and wrote and recorded at various studios in the area. 

Big Time Sensuality is off Debut, a song about being in love with going out and dancing, the sheer giddiness and delight evident in her vocal. The video, filmed in black and white on the back of a flatbed truck with Björk in a long silver dress is so of the time too. This song as much as any reminds me of 1993/4- it was played constantly in the flat I lived in, the remixes played in every club around town and me and Lou pretty much met on the dancefloor while it was being spun at Paradise Factory in Manchester. The Fluke Minimix is the version for me but there are some other remixes that hit the spot too, not least Justin Robertson's (not included here). Fluke also remixed Violently Happy (two versions) another single from Debut. 

Two more songs from Debut are on the mix- There's More To Life Than This is an astonishing song from an album full of them, full of manic Björk energy, and the jaw dropping moment she records the sound of the Milk Bar, running from the dance floor to the toilets, closing the door and then coming out again. I also love the way she sings 'ghetto blaster'. Venus As A Boy, the second single from Debut, is absurdly good, marrying post- club ambient sounds with tabla. The version here is the 7" Dream Mix, a mix by Mick Hucknall and Gota Yashiki. This marks the only appearance of the Simply Red singer at this blog. 

Hyperballad is from her second solo album Post, released in 1995, an exhilarating fusion of folk, acid house and synth pop. Hyperballad swoops in and out, as if the song is dropping from a height and shooting then back up again, head spinning production and vision. Post has several such moments- Possibly Maybe should possibly, maybe, also have been included on this mix.

Army Of Me came out in 1995, the lead single from Post. It's her most streamed song on Spotify which suggests its her most popular song. Björk and Graham Massey wrote Army Of Me in a terraced house in Gatley that belonged to a mate of Massey's and had a home studio set up. Gatley's not that far from here, I pass through often on my bike. The idea of Björk popping out from one of the houses to nip to the shop in the mid- 90s in a break from writing is bizarre and amusing. From such humble, suburban beginnings does great music appear- Army Of Me is a force of nature, the bassline alone more a landslide than a musical element and the pulverising industrial drums contain a sample from Led Zeppelin's John Bonham. The final song on this mix, You've Been Flirting Again (Icelandic Version) was on the Army Of Me CD single, the orchestral strings bringing things to a dramatic conclusion. 


Jake Sniper said...

Me & Mrs Sniper really enjoyed your Bjork mix, Mrs Sniper is a big fan of Bjork, the youngest was not keen on the Black Dog remix, but he loved Venus As A Boy & Army Of Me. I had to put on Fluke's Groovy Feeling straight after.

Nick L said...

Great mix Adam. Given that I was a massive Sugarcubes fan I had high hopes for Bjork's long term career but I simply lost interest after the mid nineties, when I felt she just tried to become too wilfully different and keeping up suddenly felt like hard work. I much preferred the natural, unforced, joyous stuff that is covered here.

Swiss Adam said...

Jake- yep, The Black Dog is the most challenging one on there I agree. Fluke are great, much overlooked.

Nick- I agree. I could do with an expert to guide me through her 21st century work because I'm sure there are some gems in there.

Disaster Dino said...

Thank you, a joyful hour lost reminiscing lost times with lost souls - loved it x

Pete W said...

Thanks for this mix (and all the others).

As a fellow 20th century Bjork fan, I'll have always have happy memories of her debut album and seeing her live on that tour (Manchester Academy if memory serves). It was just so much fun.

After the third album, her stuff became a little too much for my tastes but I'm glad she's still out there doing that kind of stuff. I'll have to dive into everything she's done this century sometime, perhaps I'll be surprised...

Jase said...

Thank you so much for doing this. Speaking from experience, it can be lonely being a Bjork fan as she is very Marmite for a lot of people. I have to agree with your assessment of her 21st century output. It's not as immediately accessible as some of her earlier output, as I was saying to the girl at the HMV checkout when I was buying 2 copies of Fossora on vinyl. :) But when Bjork is good, she is so far ahead of everyone else, it's scary.

Khayem said...

I've been enjoying this Björk mix very much, Adam, it definitely deserves the hour runtime. I think all of the remixes you've chosen are essential but also highlight just how well Björk balanced esoteric words and music with joyous, leftfield pop and straight out club bangers.

I've more or less stuck with Björk throughout, although I seem to have a break then a binge catch up on the last few albums so I've yet to purchase Vulnicura, Utopia or Fossora. I'm definitely not an expert on later period Björk either but this mix will inspire another catch up.

Similar to my Debut companion, I did something similar with Post so that will pop up on Dubhed at some point, but I will have a stab at a broader Björk selection or two as well. Jase's closing comment says it all.

Thanks, Adam!