Saturday, April 4, 2015

Björk Marathon: Drawing Restraint 9 and Screaming Masterpiece

In 2005, Björk collaborated with partner Matthew Barney on his newest experimental art film, Drawing Restraint 9, a dialogueless exploration of Japanese culture.

Björk and Matthew Barney both star in this movie, playing two occidental guests on a Japanese whaling vessel who ultimately transform into whales. I've watched the entirety of this movie on YouTube, and let me tell you, as is always with Matthew Barney's work, you're either going to really appreciate this movie, or just really hate it and think, what's the point, and think, boy, isn't this long. It's one fascinating film though, and if you can stand its two hours and twenty four minutes, it's actually well worth it, even if it does leave you scratching your head. If there's anything to get out of this film, is the beautiful imagary and some of the most striking photos of Björk and Matthew.

The movie is backed up by an equally gorgeous soundtrack composed by Björk of course, also titled Drawing Restraint 9, released on July 25, 2005. 

Unlike Selmasongs where you can listen to it without necessarily having to have seen the movie first, for the Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack, you absolutely must see the movie first, otherwise the album will just go over one's head. For this project, Björk studied ancient Japanese music. In several tracks, the shō instrument is used, and stars one of the world's greatest shō players, Mayumi Miyata, who performs on this soundtrack, and also has vocal performances by Shiro Nomura and alternative folk singer Will Oldham. Zeena Parkins also makes a return here, playing the harp on some tracks, and also Mark Bell, who also helped in producing the album with Björk alongside Valgeir Sigurðsson.

Björk's vocals are only in the tracks "Bath","Storm", and "Cetacea." And naturally, these songs are where the album truly shines. And naturally, they're some of the film's best moments too:




The tracks with her vocals aside, I also loved the opener, Gratitude. 

Ambergris March is also exquisite.

And something about Antarcic Return is stunning as well, a beautiful closer.

As a side note, here's a jaw-dropping 2003 live performance of Storm, which was first performed as Nameless.

The brass arrangements for Hunter Vessel would be re-used on Björk's next album in the songs "Vertebræ by Vertebræ" and "Declare Independence".

 Björk during this era also appeared in the 2005 documentary, Screaming Masterpiece. 

Next to Rokk í Reykjavík, which explored the punk-era of the Icelandic music scene at the time, Screaming Masterpiece is without a doubt the second most stunning and exceptional documentary on Icelandic music and Iceland's rich variety of musical talent. The movie features archive footage of the Sugarcubes and Tappi Tíkarrass and an ongoing conversation with Björk herself. It also features two stunning performances from Björk too.

All Is Full of Love


It also features amazing performances from some of Iceland's greatest acts: Sigur Rós, Slowblow, múm, Ghostigital, and more. It's seriously worth checking out if you want to learn more about the Icelandic music scene and how it has progressed and how it's still evolving.

After these projects, Björk in 2006 went on to remaster Debut, Post, Homogenic, and her two soundtrack albums, Selmasongs and Drawing Restraint 9 in 5.1 surround sound in a box set called Surrounded, released on June 27th. Vespertine and Medúlla would later be included in a repackaged format.

And lastly, as mentioned on the Sugarcubes segments of the marathon, on November 2006, The Sugarcubes reunited for a one-night only concert in Reykjavík to raise money for their record label, Smekkleysa.

And that was a wrap for this era of Björk's career, but naturally, there's so much more to come.

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