Saturday, 27 July 2013

Cassette experiment day 120 - Björk 'Debut'


I love trees. They're brilliant - they act like the world's lungs, apparently. They suck up all the oxygen and convert it into carbon dioxide. Or is it the other way around? And they bring with them some brilliant word - like sap, and my own personal favourite, arboretum.
I understand that in Iceland there are very few trees. It's difficult to imagine - what on earth they do for carbon monoxide (or oxygen?). Don’t look at me, I don’t know the answer.
It's enough to make you want to dress up like a swan and ply your trade spouting beautiful and unusual pop tunes, which coincidentally, as luck would have it, is precisely the career path taken by our cassette experiment subject today, Icelandic songbird, Björk*, with her 1993 solo debut, 'Debut'.
Only the 'ticky-tish ticky-tish' sensibilities of 'Violently happy', brilliant though it is, betray the 20 year age of this album - otherwise it sounds exactly the same today as it always has, like it's just landed from outer space. Which of course is appropriate, because the opening track 'Human Behaviour' reads like an open letter from an alien mother to her little bug-eyed progeny on the idiosyncrasies of the occupants of a far-off planet.
Production values here are extremely high, with Nellee Hooper, knob-twiddler to the legendary Soul II Soul, among other notable artists, fundamental in the shaping and steering of the sound.
It's where the sound is stripped back to basics that this album works best, such as on the harp-driven Van Heusen and Burke classic 'Like someone in love ' or the otherworldly 'Anchor song'. Fans of forgotten 1980s heroes of mine, Leisure Process, may or may not be interested to hear that the legendary Gary Barnacle pops up on this album too.
And tucked away rather quietly at the halfway point on side 2 there’s a fabulous, soaring tune called ‘Come to me’, it's a hidden treasure that, in a parallel universe (possibly the one that Björk lives in) would have been a world-beating Bond theme. Fans of Canadian disco diva France Joli (probably quite a small circle, but it does include me) should note that this is not a cover version of Ms. Joli’s minor disco classic – I for one would be overexcited to hear Björk tackle a version of that little 1979 beauty.
In conclusion, ‘Debut’ is an album that still sounds fantastic – it’s innovative and (please forgive me) extremely quörky.
*Rather excitingly (to me at least), Björk actually means 'birch tree'. Spooky.
Label – Baps! Ltd./One Little Indian

Year – 1993

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