Friday, August 21, 2009

Björk's Debut (and mine)

It was Björk who was really my first inspiration to venture out of my classical comfort zone and this album, Debut, is her first. It was also really the first of hers that I listened to properly and, listening to it again today, I am reminded why it captured me so much. I know that Björk's voice is not one that appeals to everyone - and it is certainly very distinctive. After years of listening to the cultivated precision of operatic voices, the widely and wildly varying tones of Björk's voice initially jarred a little for me; but it didn't take long to realise that "different" is not the same as "less good" and soon I found I was being carried away by those incredible adventurous sounds she produces - whether it's crying out from the depths of her raw, primal soul, or floating, angelic-like, in the stratosphere.

You get both of these in the opening track, "Human Behaviour", which, with its animalistic timpani beats, straight from the jungle, is really breathtaking. But every song on this album is, I think, a masterpiece. There is always an interesting combination of instruments - stings, harps, keyboards, brass, woodwind, every conceivable flavour of percussion - mixing in ways that always create an utterly unique sound, which always sounds just right.

Every song is so expertly, and originally, crafted. There's the way the light suddenly starts to shine, in "One Day", with the words, "the atmosphere will get lighter and two suns ready to shine just for you". And there's the dance beat of "Big Time Sensuality", so excited and sensual, and you are instantly a part of the heady atmosphere of the two lovers' first weekend together. And the way, in "Aeroplane" that the music suddenly turns exotic and foreign, when Björk sings "I'm taking an aeroplane across the world to follow my heart". Or the way "Violently Happy" is just bursting at the seams with unsettled, restless, unfulfilled energy. There's the sparse loneliness of "Anchor Song". There's the overwhelming, frightening swirls of "Play Dead".

It's this unique way that Björk creates a whole world, unique, original and yet totally convincing, in every one of her songs and throws her voice, with all its shades and colours, into everything she does, that makes this album such a stunning debut - for me, almost as much as it is for Björk.

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