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Bjork
Albums

  • Debut
  • Post
  • Homogenic
  • Vespertine
  • Medulla
  • Volta
  • Biophilia








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Bjork

    Debut( 1993 )
    Human Behaviour / Crying / Venus As A Boy / There's More To Life Than This / Like Someone In Love / Big Time Sensuality / One Day / Aeroplane / Come To Me / Violently Happy / The Anchor Song

    I was nineteen years old when 'Debut' appeared, just the right age to get into something exotic and different and that was just the videos. Soul II Soul’s Nellee Hooper, Howie B, Marius De Vries and jazz musicians Corky Hale and Oliver Lake collaborated - Bjork herself retaining overall creative vision. Pop art, I think we can call it. Well, this isn't pop as such, it isn't really dance and certainly isn't rock music. That's part of the reason it's stood the test of time so well, even if a few of the production touches firmly scream early nineties. 'Come To Me' for example has a wonderfully natural acoustic sound, that bass going up to the heavens, firm and hypnotic. Strings and tablas and all sorts, wrapped in a very uncluttered and pleasing arrangement - it hasn't dated. 'Violently Happy' meanwhile has 90s dance-beats prominent yet also acoustic percussion and other instrumental touches taking away from the idea the dance-beats are the main purpose of the musical track. The 'parping' beats of 'Big Time Sensuality' are arguably the worst offenders in the 'dating to a time and place' stakes but it's just a fun party track. It's the variety that makes 'Debut' the fine debut that it is. Did you see what I did there? I mean, you've got the spooked 'Human Behaviour', the pretty and lovely uplifting 'Venus As A Boy' and the demented clubbing 'THere's More To Life Than This' with it's infamous "little Ghetto-blaster" line. We've the ever so simple and beautiful 'Anchor Song' and if you're really fortunate, the epic cinematic 'Play Dead' (with groovy bass lines) as a bonus track.

    Think back over the past twenty years or so and count the truly important debuts by a female artist and this will be on most critics lists. Yes, it was just the start (ignoring the album she made when she was twelve or whatever) of a long-career, but even more so than the populist 'Post', it's 'Debut' than still defines large parts of Bjork's solo career. It's far less percussive than most of what came next, but everything she'd ever be is still here somehow. 'Like Someone In Love' would strongly point to what happened immediately next yet the likes of 'Human Behaviour' spans her entire musical timeline.

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    Post 8 ( 1995 )
    Army of Me / Hyper-Ballad / Modern Things / It's Oh So Quiet / Enjoy / You've Been Flirting Again / Isobel / Possibly Maybe / I Miss You / Cover Me / Headphones

    In a run of commercial success Bjork hadn't enjoyed before and hasn't since, 'Post' contained three UK top ten singles including the worldwide smash, 'It's Oh So Quiet', possibly the least representative tune of her entire career. It's a shame this old showtune, albeit given a great vocal and video, is the single one song everyone will play on the news when Bjork pops her clogs, as she really has so much more to offer the artistic world than that. More to offer? Well, 'Army Of Me' for starters, which opens with a sexy bass riff, ice-maiden vocals and ape-thumping drums. Her vocal rises, slightly, we get some slashes and movie-like effects. Cinematic, that's the word for 'Army Of Me', not a stunning actual song in a pop sense but certainly dramatic enough to be eternally memorable, all the same. Industrial rhythms permeate the likes of 'Enjoy', the lilting pop of 'Possibly Maybe' is cut from the same cloth as much of 'Debut', a charm only somehow completely divorce from the commercial marketplace can provide. It's a tune that's a lot more complicated than initial listens indicate. Well, it's got jazzy drums, trip-hop sequences and a completely delightful, typically idiosyncratic Bjork vocal.

    'Headphones' features exotic instrumentation although is more mood than something to hum along with, although there's nothing particularly wrong with that, of course. 'Hyper-Ballad' is the one I keep coming back to, a song that arrives to build on 'Army Of Me' with its angry groovy sexiness with a sensual shifting romance - widescreen adventures of youth - Bjork's vocal here a vocal to fall in love with and dream about. Finally, I like the synth buzzing of 'The Modern Things' although again, it's the Bjork vocals that really shine. A mixed bag overall is 'Post' though, lots of styles, lots of production - too much production, really. Although perhaps not enough time has passed to say the album sounds dated, in a way it does. It sounds very 'britpop', very synthetic. Bjork's vocals do make up for this to an extent and several of the tunes are superb, but I still have nagging doubts about 'Post' as a whole. It doesn't seem to have the naieve charm 'Debut' had and lacks the sheer out-there madness of her later work. Of course, such a 'compromise' may result in 'Post' being many fans favourite Bjork.

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    Homogenic 9 ( 1997 )
    Hunter / Jóga / Unravel / Bachelorette / All Neon Like / 5 Years / Immature / Alarm Call / Pluto / All Is Full of Love

    It was a turbulent time in her life yet when hasn't it been? Bjork, being an eccentric goddess of the air, will always attract controversy somewhere along the line. 'Homogenic' was hailed then as both brilliant and a sign that Bjork had lost the plot. You couldn't get more different to her transatlantic chart topper 'It's All So Quiet' even if you wanted to. Smart move by Bjork in my book. She lost millions of fans that wanted her to become a pop-star by making the best album of her career. Bjork again joins up with programmers to realise her melodies and her ideas and you only need one listen to the brilliant ' Jóga' to understand that this is the case. A deep, disconcerting line of strings ominously prepare and Bjork appears to stand on those very icy mountains her homeland is so famous for. Very disparate beats and the song doesn't suddenly appear to be going anywhere, but bear with us. Is there a bear with us? Well, probably is one with Bjork – it's probably a pet of hers. Ah, ok, i'm filling time I know until that fabulous two minute mark where everything soars and 'Jóga' becomes a song to make you happy, to make you cry sheer tears of joy. Never straightforward is 'Jóga' but it's more than enough for me.

    '5 Years' and 'Immature' and solid, representative album tracks, so let's talk about them. Squelchy beats, Bjork's idiosyncratic vocals, little tiny melodies and plenty of strange noises. 'Bacheleorette' is here with menace, 'Unravel' is here with utter childlike ease and beauty. For fans of 'Debut', we have 'Alarm Call' which sounds like it could have come straight from that LP, albeit the organic beats and programming here still set it somewhat apart. We also get the lullaby 'All Is Full Of Love' to end this emotional Bjork LP, a representative Bjork LP as things have turned out, although it certainly wasn't like that at the time. 'Homogenic' sold well enough, but not at the level 'Post' did and marked a turning point in her career, away from the mainstream towards wilfully challenging both critics and her audience. 'Homogenic' however is where she got everything right.

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    Readers Comments

    Thomas Meade Australia
    I'd wager it's about as close to a perfect album as we're likely to get. The only complaint I have is that the single version of "All Is Full of Love" is much better than the album version, although it of course wouldn't make much sense to use it within the context of the album. Really though there isn't a single track here that's less than brilliant.


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    Vespertine ( 2001 )
    Hidden Place / Cocoon / It's Not Up to You / Undo / Pagan Poetry / Frosti / Aurora / An Echo, A Stain / Sun in My Mouth / Heirloom / Harm of Will / Unison

    'Vespertine' is a fully cohesive work, back to the beautiful ambition of 'Homogenic' yet without losing track of melody. The way the strings sail all over certain elements bring to mind snowy mountains - open air, singing angels and some kind of religious praise. The orchestral shifting desert of snow that is 'Hidden Place' is just stunning. Uniquely Bjork, she uses her collaborators to get the sounds in her head. In fact, the first three songs here are nearly all perfect, the clicking and intimate squelches of 'Cocoon' leading into the misleading 'It's Not Upto You', an uplifting chorus offset by a deeply unsettling selection of sung Bjork poetry. When the deep bass notes come in too? Well, good times. 'Vespertine' presents a listener with much to unravel and although built of electronic beds of percussion, Bjork has managed to make something that doesn't sound too tied in with anything anybody else is doing, surely the mark of an album likely to stand the test of time.

    With 'Harm Of Will' and 'Unison' the album doesn't so much come to a crashing, glorious crescendo as reaffirm how close and small Bjork is trying to be whilst evoking empty, wide spaces full of cold. Snatches of a child's musical box throughout the album also lend a purity. 'Unison' especially seems to me like something closing down, rather than being concluded. It's the end of the day and why doesn't Bjork just record with voice plus orchestra and leave it at that? Could be an amazing thing. As it is, 'Vespertine' has plenty of amazing moments of its own. <

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    Tom Meade Australia
    As regards recording with just strings and vocals, I often wonder the same thing. I suppose she did that jazz album once, and her version of Gloomy Sunday is probably my favourite going... But none of that got the sort of creative push she gives to her albums. She's done more or less everything in the elctronic format so it'd certainly be interesting to see her do an "unplugged" set of new material. Vespertine, I'd rank below all her 90s albums but above Volta and Selmasongs. You can't really argue with the beauty of the production. Maybe I need to listen to it more (of course I do).

    John Steiner kida53027@yahoo.com
    I dunno! An 8 & 1/2 for Vespertine while Homogenic receives a 9? I seem to be in the minority who thinks that Vespertine is Bjork's best work of all time! The first 5 tracks alone should easily qualify this as an easy 10 in my book. Especially "Undo" with those angelic "It's not meant to be a struggle uphill" lines! So beautiful that it hurts to listen to it. So a 10 for Vespertine? For my money...HELL YES!!!


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    Medulla( 2004 )
    The Pleasure Is All Mine / Show Me Forgiveness / Where Is the Line / Vökuró / Öll Birtan / Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left Carry My Pain on the Right) / Submarine / Desired Constellation / Oceania / Sonnets/Unrealities / Ancestors / Mouth's Cradle / Miđvikudags / Triumph of a Heart

    A temple without religion, a plane soaring without engines. Covering your arms in feathers and attempting to fly to the sun. Only approximately half of the tracks on 'Medulla' can be classified as songs as such. Bjork has done what perhaps was the only thing left for her to do - ditch the music altogether. Well, it's not strictly true that this is an entirely acapella record, although 95% of it certainly is. Elsewhere, voices are processed to sound like beats or bass lines. Heavenly choirs spring up during the likes of the stunning 'Where Is The Line' so first of all, don't go into this thinking all you're getting is fourteen tracks of Bjork singing and vocalising on her own. 'Medulla' isn't quite that straightforward. In actual fact, it isn't straightforward at all. Even by Bjork standards 'Medulla' is a challenge. Well, if the aspect you like least on an average Bjork record is her singing and voice, clearly, don't go anywhere near this album. For those that have enjoyed her edging ever further outwards, this may be as far out as she can go. She's surrounded herself with professional singers of the likes of Mike Patton, Robert Wyatt, an entire Icelandic Choir. Matmos, who has done some strange things, helps out with the programming. Bjork has always managed to surround herself with very cool people. I like 'Submarine', a wholly vocal excersize that sounds like voice training, but the distinctive sound of Robert Wyatt can be heard and adds another something else.

    'Ancestors' just makes me stop dead. A conglomoration of guttaral sounds amidst a lonely sounding piano, a real instrument that suddenly sounds like it's a million years old. The voices ignore this strange foreign object for they are even older than that. A tremendous amount of beauty and emotions come at you even though it's hard to place and you certainly don't have any discernable words to get hold of. The songs in English, such as 'Mouth's Cradle' are inevitably the ones you can get hold of first of all. Yet, even this contains seemingly strange combinations of words alongside a monk-like chorus of voices. It's actually very beautiful indeed. The closing 'Triumph Of A Heart' is full of human beat-boxing that really is remarkable and 'Who Is It' mentions a 'skeleton of trust', so you can see, even the songs that are in English and not wordless or Icelandic aren't easily comprehensible. 'Who Is It' is actually one of the more approachable songs in terms of easily understood melody, vocal melody at least. Hardly potential single material, though. 'Medulla' is anti-commercial yet has won Bjork a lot of friends. She's been around for quite some years now and still seeks to be original, progressive and above all, interesting. We love her for that.

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    Readers Comments

    lee
    Her least commercial record but also her finest. It is very personal to the point it cannot be understood totally but by herself. However, the emotion is in the music and thats where it shines. The fact that some tracks are sung in icelandic and succeed is in that she is expressing herself in pure music without any other comprehension on the listeners part other than the sounds he/she hears and how that individual interprets it. All time classic in years to come !!

    lee Auty Bolton
    I like all kinds of music including boring old classical. But what i love about this album it is very progressive but goes full circle and becomes a classical album. Its an album based solely on sound and emotion. I love bjork but every track she makes is like marmite to me ( i either like it or not ). Yet strangely this most alientating album of hers i adore


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    Volta 8 ( 2007 )
    Earth Intruders / Wanderlust / Dull Flame of Desire / Innocence (Co-Produced By Timbaland) / I See Who You Are (Feat. Min Xiao-Fen) / Vertebrae by Vertebrae / Pneumonia / Hope / Declare Independence / My Juvenile

    Bjork returns to adriandenning.co.uk. I reviewed all of her albums once then deleted the reviews for being far too crap. For those that want to know, 'Volta' isn't a return to 'Debut' or 'Post' rather a return to something like 'Homogenic', at least it approaches something that might be considered commercial and graspable. She works with noted hip-hop producer Timbaland on a few tracks. Nothing here sounds like Fergie or Nelly Furtado because this is Bjork. 'Innocence' sounds scary to me, lots of weird sounds courtesy of both Bjork and Timbaland. Bjork still scares me. Why does it sound like a ship is being launched at the beginning of 'Declare Independence' and then like she's buried the guitar player under several pillows? 'Dull Flame Of Desire' is a Bjork duet? Who could sing with Bjork I hear you cry! Well, Anthony of Anthony And The Johnsons of course. The result is interestingly pleasingly naturally very peculiar. Sonny and Cher need not be worried or cancel their prime-time TV show just yet. What do you mean that was decades ago? Bjork never sounds old herself, only ever sounding progressive and artful no matter what she does. It's a beautiful track. 'My Juvenille' is another duet with Anthony. Weird Bjork instrumentation barely there, the song is hard to unravel and Bjork's voice is raw and naked. Anthony doesn't get a lot to do here to be honest, but when his vocals do come in the song enjoys another layer of interest. It's a quiet, fitting album closer that weirdly reminds me of her own 'Anchor Song'. I say weirdly because it sounds nothing like that song.

    'Dull Flame Of Desire' is a song with both a wonderful name and wonderful emotions. The percussive 'Earth Intruders' leads off the album. 'Earth Intruders'? What, loads of Bjorks ready to take over and conquer the world? This mix of Bjork and producer Timbaland is very funky, eccentric and well sung, although describing what Bjork does as singing doesn't quite seem right. It's a really good track, a wonderful way to open the album and the magic of Bjork is very definitely present. 'Wanderlust' is a great song-title to appear on a Bjork album. It's also seven minutes long, goes through several parts including a dancey part with beats that are hard to dance to, With Bjork that normally is the norm that we like her for. Never easy on us, Miss Bjork. The mix with Timaland is often inspired and the other tracks at least have suitable Bjork type atmospheres. Waves on rocks like 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae' for example. The album isn't easy and isn't quite one of her best, but quality will out in the end. Repeated listenings are generally satisfying.

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    Readers Comments

    Shaz India
    As regards recording with just strings and vocals, I often wonder the same thing. I suppose she did that jazz album once, and her version of Gloomy Sunday is probably my favourite going... But none of that got the sort of creative push she gives to her albums. She's done more or less everything in the elctronic format so it'd certainly be interesting to see her do an "unplugged" set of new material. Vespertine, I'd rank below all her 90s albums but above Volta and Selmasongs. You can't really argue with the beauty of the production. Maybe I need to listen to it more (of course I do).

    John Steiner kida53027@yahoo.com
    The flabbiest album of bjork's career. It has great moments but something seems wrong, it never congeals into something cohesive. Then there are shameless releases of boxsets after boxsets which serve no purpose but to underline the overall weakness of this album. She still remains, though one of my favorites and I am sure will continue to surprise us.


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    Biophilia( 2011 )
    Moon / Thunderbolt / Crystalline / Cosmogony / Dark Matter / Hollow / Virus / Sacrifice / Mutual Core / Solstice

    'Biophilia' has been creatively inspired by the Icelandic financial crisis of 2008 and also the latter volcanic eruptions that disrupted her homeland. Similarly inspired by the crossover between nature and technology, 'Biophilia' emerges complete with multimedia iPad apps costing 1.99 each, a subdued production and sound and typically for Bjork, exotic instrumentation to complete the journey. The unconventional song structures push 'Biophilia' toward the more avant-garde end of her discography rather than more commercial strands - she seems to 'to and fro' between these two ends of her career yet the result is she never manages to put out an album close to displaying the full range of her creative talents. Engineer Damian Taylor helped build studio toys included touchscreen and other programmable instruments with the physical touch being via Nintendo controllers. The later launch of the iPad saw Bjork able to manipulate sounds and essentially become solely responsible for the music composition. The result is pure essence of the wilful, eccentric mind of Bjork, rarely approaching anything resembling verse/chorus/verse. Indeed, I don't think we have a single chorus on the entire LP. The instruments, albeit manipulated digitally, are very sparse and acoustic sounding with wood and bells and pipe-organs and hammers and Celeste. I hear she's got something special visually and technologically lined-up for the live dates, and she'll need that, otherwise the audience is likely to fall asleep during several of the more bare, outrageously graceful and calm musical sequences. Her voice, by the way, remains as lovely and powerful as it ever did, especially when she harmonises with herself during 'Thunderbolts', the 2nd track here.

    Biophilia' is a fairly obtuse set of songs with often hard to identity lyrical patterns that freely forgo easy understanding. Such things could result in 'Biophilia' growing with age and reviewing it now rather than in four years time means we can only predict what the reception will be. I'm constantly reminded of German singer Nico, who once outside velvet Underground control learnt to play the harmonium and, whilst not a musician, composed and performed using her harmonium breaking many of the basic laws of music in the process. Nico's music could be viewed as either utterly pure and spell-binding or deliberately uncomprehending. 'Biophilia' reminds me then very much of Nico's 'Marble Index', which could be taken as a compliment. 'Crystaline' is easier to immediately approach than a majority of the albums tracks yet Bjork being Bjork, she sticks on some furious drum and bass all over the ending for no apparent reason. 'Virus' is a highlight, it gently tinkles and tickles our hearts and minds, Bjork sings delicately and with loving feeling of warmth. 'Dark Matter' barely seems to even exist, such is the suggestion of open space and emptiness. 'Hollow' at least has that pipe organ emerging and massed vocals amidst drum and bass intervention to provide the necessary harshness and texture. Ah, musical dynamics and texture are the key missing ingredients throughout much of 'Biophilia' as song after song sits within worlds enveloped by quirkily drawn absence of physicality. 'Solstice' sounds like Bjork wandering alone amongst snowy, deserted landscapes whilst welcomingly, 'Mutual Core' offers the warmth of a log-fire, well, pipe-organ in actuality. Drum and Bass return to offer violence and sternly proclaimed fury before the quiet and warmth of the pipe-organ returns, providing a quiet/loud dynamic that arguably 'Biophilia' needs a lot more of.

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    this page last updated 16/10/11


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