Sunday, March 1, 2015

Björk Marathon: Post

Continuing onward from Debut, Björk got together again with Nellee Hooper, and along with electronica producer, Howie B., and other collaborators that she has worked with before---Tricky and Graham Massey of 808 State---they produced Björk's second album, Post.


Björk has often described this album cover's character as someone who has been "out of the country" for quite some time and is now discovering new adventures in a city that once foreign she now calls home. That city is London, and around this time in 1995, dance and electronica music was becoming bigger and trip hop and jazz was still as popular as pop music itself. So for this album, all those influences are there, but with a harder, more industrial sound. Björk named the album Post for two reasons: she saw Debut and Post as a series, where the songs on Debut were written before her move to England, and Post were songs written after her move to England, dealing with her experiences there. I see Post as it being about before she knew her new sound world, and now with Post, it's the aftermath, with so many wild adventures waiting before her and that world. Björk has called this album "musically promiscuous", and boy, isn't it ever. It's a musically scattered album, but that was where Björk's musical heart was at the time, so it's only just right that the album represents that urgency. The album jumps from the industrial ("Army of Me" and "Enjoy"), to big band ("It's Oh So Quiet"), trip hop ("Possibly Maybe"), the cinematic ("Isobel") to the experimental ("Headphones"). The theme is essentially about "looking"---for what? The album isn't quite sure, but it isn't so much about the destination, but about the journey, and Post fearlessly takes us on that great unknown.


(The picture above was originally going to be the cover for Post, but was scrapped/rejected in favor of the cover we know and love today).


Six singles were born from Post, and it was the music videos that catapulted them to fame. They are:

"Army of Me"


Here's a fun fact for you: this song was written by Björk for her brother.

"Isobel"




 And here's another one: this song was written by Sjón.

"It's Oh So Quiet"



"Hyperballad"


 This song was inspired by a dream.

 "Possibly Maybe"


This song was written about Björk's failed relationship with Stéphane Sednaoui, a photographer who's known for taking these fabulous photos of Björk around this time:


"I Miss You"


Can you tell that this music video was animated by the fella who animates Ren & Stimpy? That's right, John Kricfalusi is behind the surrealism of this zany video, and it's not the least bit surprising that Björk admired the man and wanted him to take part in this video.


In my opinion, the Post era was where her music videos were the most creative and imaginative, and it certainly helped catapult the singles at the top of the charts and made Post into a platinum success. This was also the era where Björk's cute and spunky "pixie" image (which she claims was entirely by accident) was at its peak.

Amid all her mainstream success, Björk also contributed to the 1995 Hector Zazou album, Chansons des mers froides (Songs from the Cold Sea), singing the traditional Icelandic song, "Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu" ("Verses by Rosa of Vatnsendi"). This haunting song would appear as a Possibly Maybe b-side and would also be the song that would kick off the set-list of a future tour:


With all this fame also came the consequences. It was around this time when Björk got international attention for her infamous paparazzi incident at Bangkok International Airport. Björk has said that the reason for her attack on the reporter was because of how the paparazzi were pestering her son, and her team has also stated that the reporter had been pestering Björk for four days. Björk later apologized to the reporter, who accepted her apology and decided to not take legal action against her.

Despite that pretty dark incident, this was another good year for Björk as Post continually got critical acclaim. It delivers that perfect balance of experimental whimsy and mainstream pop, and it's also a sonic escapism, so dreamy that it instantly takes you away as soon as you listen to it. Along with Post, a remix version of the album was also released, called Telegram.


In a 1996 interview with Blah Blah Blah magazine, she states:

"For me Telegram is really Post as well but all the elements of the songs are just exaggerated. It's like the core of Post. That's why it's funny to call it a remix album, it's like the opposite. Telegram is more stark, naked. Not trying to make it pretty or peaceable for the ear. Just a record I would buy myself. Like a letter to myself. Sort of... "fuck what people think". It's a truth thing."

Now, I normally can't stand remixes or remix albums, but only Björk can sway me to the other side, and she did it with Telegram. For a remix album, it's not only good, but quite stunning. Telegram is where Björk dissects and then reconstructs the songs, making them completely unique on their own, as their own, in their sensuality, arrangements, tempos, and moods. In a way, Björk is covering Björk. The way she interprets the original songs into what's here---it's not only refreshing, but truly original.

With a successful album came heavy promotion and an international tour. Björk appeared on a countless number of TV programs, like Later...With Jools Holland and Top of the Pops, and Post was promoted heavily on radio, TV, magazines, advertisements, etc. Björk toured Post from July 1995 to February 1997, covering the USA, the UK, and much of Europe, Asia, Oceania, Israel and Brazil.

The last stop of the tour was in London at Shepherd's Bush Empire, and was later released on VHS/DVD, titled simply Shepherd's Bush Empire.

This concert DVD is far more sophisticated than MTV Unplugged and Vessel. Technology and that industrial sound that Björk captured so well on Post is just so alive on Shepherds Bush Empire as she performs and sings the songs from Debut but mostly from Post, of course. And something about the ethereal dark blue lighting that makes Björk sparkly dark pink dress pop takes you even deeper into the songs and into the energy of that concert. Like with all of her concerts, Björk performs and sings the songs that don't sound exactly like the studio version. She brings her own natural, sensual, lively charm into it that makes the songs not only magical to hear but enchanting to see. The concert highlights for me were:

"Venus as a Boy"

"Possibly Maybe"


"Hyperballad"


"Enjoy"


"Human Behavior"


"I Miss You"


And there would also be a Post Live CD.


All tracks from this CD are from the Shepherds Bush concert on February 27, 1997. The audio isn't the best of quality, but like the DVD, the live performance shows through sound how Björk was creative and taking such giant leaps for the future of music. All the performances are strong, the music experimental, sometimes romantic, very lyrical, but oh so modern. The highlight of this CD is her singing "It's Oh So Quiet." Björk rarely does covers, and this song in particular she has only ever performed live for the Post tour, in 1995. She hasn't performed this song live since! Only Björk could sing a cover and make it entirely her own.


So amongst all this newfound freedom, creativity, and sense of wonder, what exactly was Björk searching for musically? Only the successor to Post will have the answer to that big question. ;)


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