Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Björk Marathon: Gling-Gló

If you guessed Gling-Gló, you're right!


This is the only album ever made by Björk Guðmundsdóttir & tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar. They formed in 1990 while Björk was still with The Sugarcubes. That trio consisted of Guðmundur Ingólfsson on piano, Guðmundur Steingrímsson ("Papa Jazz") on drums, and Þórður Högnason on bass. How exactly the group got together is a bit of a mystery: one version of events said that Guðmundur Ingólfsson and Björk, after playing together at Hótel Borg in 1987, formed a friendship, while another source says that Björk made an impression on him from her appearances on a local jazz radio program called Godravina Fundur, and that he also remembered Björk fondly from when she was 16, hanging around his recording sessions at his farm. Either story sounds pretty possible, and whichever story is actually true, whatever the case, the group got together and made this album.

And it's basically everything you'd expect from Björk as a jazz singer. This is very much an Icelandic album - her only Icelandic album as an adult. All the Icelandic songs here are favorite jazz standards in Iceland, with two songs sung in English, the jazz standards "Ruby Baby" and "I Can't Help Loving That Man." At the instant I listen to this record, I feel like that I'm in a nightclub, and the music takes me away to this nostalgia that I can only imagine, but it makes me feel as if I know it and lived it.

The first song that tugs you gently in is the title song, "Gling-Gló", in translation, "Ding, Dong."


 And then after comes "Luktar-Gvendur" ("Lantern-Gvendur"), one of my other favorites!


And here's a (super rare) clip of her performing this live too!


Other highlights on this album for me are:

Kata Rokkar ("Kata Rocks")

 
Brestir Og Brak ("Crackle and Bang")


 Bella Símamær ("Bella the Operator")

  
þađ Sést Ekki Sætari Mey ("None Sweeter Than Me Can Be Seen")

 Ruby Baby

I Can't Help Loving That Man

 
What I love about Gling-Gló as a whole is its uniqueness, quirkiness, and classiness. It's rooted in old school jazz balanced with the more modern and whimsical. It's not your ordinary jazz album. It's a sweet and charming one that shines in every sense of the word. Even if you don't know Icelandic, the language is expressed through the way Björk sings in such a girlish, confident, and joyous manner. The album is simply infectious. I'm not at all surprised that it became a huge hit in Iceland, hitting platinum status there, and yes, to this day it's still Björk's most popular album in Iceland. The album was distributed by Smekkleysa first, and then One Little Indian. The Icelandic songs were recorded live at Reykjavík's Studio Syrlandin in only 2 days while the 2 English tracks was recorded in one day on Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) television. As mentioned, the band performed live at Hotel Borg. 

Recordings from this session can only be found on bootleg, which have been posted on YouTube
 
They performed the nightclub circuit in Iceland only, until Guðmundur Ingólfsson died from lung cancer in 1991, and the group disbanded. 

If you love jazz and Björk, this is basically heaven---not only as a jazz record but as a testament to Björk's vocal range and eclectic taste as an artist and musician. And as mentioned before, being that this album makes it also her only Icelandic album with exception to her 1977 album as a kid, it's pretty special in that way too, and then some. 

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