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Living To Music – Björk ‘Debut’

Björk 'Debut'

ARTIST: BJÖRK

ALBUM: DEBUT

LABEL: ONE LITTLE INDIAN

YEAR: 1993

This Sunday (March 3rd) at 9pm, you’re invited to share a listening session with some likeminded souls, wherever you might be. This can be experienced either alone or communally, and you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home to participate. If it’s not possible to make the allotted time, hopefully you can join in at your convenience at some point during the following weeks. See update here:
http://blog.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/07/living-to-music-update-july-2012/

I first became aware of Björk via Christine Leveridge and Anne-Marie Copeland of Kiss AMC, who I managed and produced during the late ’80s. Kiss AMC were the sister crew of Manchester’s Ruthless Rap Assassins, and they’d only started rapping because the Assassins needed a couple of fly girls for a track they were doing – Kermit of the Assassins drafting in his little sister and her best mate. However, rather than being big into Hip Hop, Christine and Anne-Marie were huge Indie fans, into bands like The Smiths, The Bodines and The Pixies. It was whilst I was driving them somewhere or other that I first remember hearing Björk Guðmundsdóttir’s voice, when she was a member of another of the bands they were into, The Sugarcubes, who hailed from the unlikely location of Reykjavík, Iceland. They’d asked me to put on a cassette they’d put together of some of their favourite tunes of the time, which included a truly stunning song sung in a delicious broken English, sounding quite unlike anything I’d heard before, called ‘Birthday’. This was my introduction to The Sugarcubes, and when their first album, ‘Life’s Too Good’ was released in 1988, I grabbed myself a copy.

The Sugarcubes 'Life's Too Good'

After the Sugarcubes disbanded in 1992, Björk focused on a solo career, and ‘Debut’ really caught the zeitgeist, as she surprised her existing fan base, whilst enticing so many new admirers by embracing dance music as a main theme of the album, creating her own hybrid sound in collaboration with producer Nellee Hooper. Having started out as a member of Bristol’s hallowed Wild Bunch DJ collective / Sound System, Hooper was destined to become one of the most innovative producers of the era, and, before he hooked-up with Björk, had already enjoyed success, both critically and commercially, working on albums including Soul II Soul’s ‘Club Classics Vol. 1’ (1989), Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got’ (1990) and Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ (1991).

As with Kate Bush, this was a female artist who wasn’t afraid to push at the barriers – she very much did things on her own terms with the same type of elfin charisma that Bush, or even the gymnast Olga Korbut, exuded. Quirky and exotic, Björk was a captivating pop star, and ‘Debut’ would go all the way to #3 on the UK charts, whilst eventually selling a million copies Stateside, it’s quality and inventiveness announcing the arrival of a major new solo artist with a unique voice, full of playfulness, passion and power.

Bjork

Although the album is called ‘Debut’, it was actually Björk’s 2nd solo album – the first, recorded in 1977 and released in Iceland when she was just 12 years old. She’d been spotted the previous year, via an appearance on Icelandic radio singing a hugely endearing version of Tina Charles’s UK chart topper, ‘I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)’, which is well worth a link here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rujxXOmYLUU

Living To Music

Your own thoughts are always welcomed, and, should you join us for Sunday’s session, it’d be great if you could leave a comment here after you’ve listened to the album sharing your impressions – how the music affected you, who you listened to it with, where you were, plus anything else relevant to your own individual / collective experience.

Debut Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debut_(Bj%C3%B6rk_album)

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10 Responses to Living To Music – Björk ‘Debut’

  1. Kit February 28, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    “Although the album is called ‘Debut’, it was actually Björk’s 2nd solo album”

    Her third! Gling-Glo came out between Sugarcubes records.

  2. greg wilson March 1, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    Hi Kit – that wasn’t a solo album, but credited to Björk Guðmundsdóttir & tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar.

    greg

  3. Kit March 1, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    Quality nitpick, well played!

  4. Lou Lou March 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Trippy!! As I was a rock chick at the time, I obviously misssed out on this album. Although it’s another where I recognise most of the tracks. I can’t get over how dancey, jazzy and clubby sounding it is. Transported me to a time I never experienced. Really enjoyed it. Like the way it flowed. Especially the mad party fading in and out followed by the beautiful floaty “comedown” sounding track early on.
    She does sound agonisingly in love throughout.
    Did this one at home alone. Miss the company of friends but enjoy knowing I’m sharing the same timespace with them too, if you know what I mean?!
    Gonna flip it straight back on.

  5. Dan March 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Fantastic album from start to finish! A proper complete album, I love it! I’ve never listened to it as an LP before, but was familiar with several of the released singles. I especially like ‘There’s More To Life Than This’ which I’d not heard. I’m not a big Björk fan, but having listened to this I now realise how talented and unique an artist she truly is. It’s obvious that her and Nellee Hooper were a lethal combination and clearly bounced off each other on this project. While the album is of its time, almost exactly 20 years old! I think some of the less dance tracks sound as fresh today, timeless even.

  6. BrianE March 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Interesting album, she try’s to be different and succeeds. Having never felt drawn to buy her albums I can listen to her and find myself listening with a sense of curiosity rather than out and out enjoyment. Great voice and vision though!

  7. Nadia March 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Another challenging artist for me.I must have listened to the album for the over a year against my will on what seemed like perpetual repeat whilst waiting on in Cafe Tabac. I viewed the prospect of listening again with a residual annoyance even after over a decades pause. However, I relish the opportunity these sessions offer to challenge my own strong prejudice and I listened once more. Reading your introduction to the session I think that it is exactly the qualities that attracted you to Bjork that alienated me. What you saw as ‘elfin charisma’ I saw as a pretence of chidlishness. Hair in bunches, shrieking petulantly… surely the idea of women musicians as ‘endearing’ little girls was strangled by Siouxsie, Ari and the rest in the seventies? I had heard the Sugar Cubes on Peel and thought her voice there had a more threatening edge and then, out of the confines of a band, her solo work seemed to surround it with all of the glitter and twinkle of a safe, sellable femininity. For all of these reasons I would never have listened voluntarily to her music and I have really only developed my attitude to her through little glimpses into her ideas and attitudes. I heard how supportive she was of Talvin SIngh and how he described her championing of what he said she described as ‘the immigrants’ . I saw her commitment to art in her relationship to art house film makers and then I saw her singing with her old singing teacher accompanying her on an acoustic piano…no shrieks …no babyish gurgles or sighs but a powerful and skillful voice and I carried on watching the story of her recording an album with total ownership of her creative process. On listening to this album again I can see that element in amongst all of the sonic nursery toys. As someone who defends the right of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman to provoke and alienate in the interests of the artistic experiment I think I have to acknowledge Bjorks right to do the same to me. So here I am both irritated and paying respect.

  8. Henry April 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Like Dan abpve, another “familiar with the singles” job here, I love the housier numbers like Violently Happy and Big Time Sensuality – they transport me back to ’93-’94 instantly. I also always had a soft spot for Venus As A Boy, it all sounded very exotic/vaguely saucy to me back then in an abstract way, but I didn’t really have a clue what she was on about.

    Overall, it’s a very pleasant listen, though I have to have my usual moan about stuff that’s overly kooky, but obviously I’ve seen enough of her character over the years to know there’s nothing contrived about her.

    I can see why this must have been a dinner party classic – it’s a very smooth listen…although it blew my mind when Play Dead came one…crikey, I had completely forgotten about that tune and how epic it is..

    I thought I’d be on the fence with this one, indeed the less groovy tracks do lose me a bit, but I was surprised how overtly dancey the rest of them are. Not sure if the album is something I’d listen to on a regular basis, but I definitely enjoyed it this time round 🙂

  9. lecci April 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    thought i’d better write here before tonight’s Lennon listen.
    This whole album reminds me of uni. I loved it then and now.
    Venus as a Boy is one of the most sublime tracks I have ever heard and i am actually less keen on the more dancey tracks.
    Brilliant album, kooky woman, wonderful voice. Great in the car too!!!
    Cheers xxx

  10. TC April 8, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    Quirky, fun pop music at it’s finest.

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