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Posts Tagged ‘Bjork’

Ever so often I stumble upon a couple of Bjork’s songs and then I get this irresistible urge to scream out her name. A few months ago, it was this totally fucking awesome version of Big Time Sensuality with Zakir Hussain. This time around, I have found two rarities, which showcase two very different sides of Björk.

bjork0304So Broken sounds like it is. A stripped-down acoustic plea by Bjork found on the pre-release promo of the 1997 Joga single. Backed by Raimundo Amador’s flamenco guitar, she sings, “So broken, in pieces, my heart is so broken, I’m puzzling” in a way that would make Tom Yorke look like Deepak Chopra. So very fragile.

Hidden Place was the first single from the 2001 Vespertine album. It had an incredibly cool music video directed by Mathias Augustyniak going for it, as well. Unbeknownst to everyone and their cousin, a concert version recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2002 leaked out some time ago. Well, this pretty much kills the studio version. Adoringly led by the Inuit Choir on backing vocals, Zeena Parkins on harp and Robert Groslot’s Il Novecentro Orchestra, Bjork whispers to us, “But careful, careful, there lies my passion, hidden, there lies my love, I’ll hide it under a blanket, lull it to sleep”.

Bjork-Royal-Albert-HallSee, Björk has the same effect on jazz that pepper spray has on foreplay uhmmm or something less disturbing. A blinding commitment to discomfort. Very much like Diamanda Galas without the raving lunacy. Right from one of her first solo albums – Gling-Gló (recorded with Ingólfssonar, a very weird Icelandic bebop trio) to the more recent single Náttúra, a common thread of anomalies that run through her music. A string of misshaped notes that dare the listener to appreciate unfamiliarity.

If ever further proof was needed that a lack of structure is what drives art physically ahead, look no further than the sounds of Björk Guðmundsdóttir.

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Bjork – Broken (acoustic version)

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Bjork – Hidden Place (live at the Royal Albert Hall)

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putsApart from being the title of a really cool Wes Craven flick, People Under The Stairs (PUTS) is also what a bunch of jazzy hip-hoppers form LA are calling themselves. Having released over six albums, four EPs, a couple of mixtapes to their credit and having fashioned a laidback vibe that even the late Miles Davis would approve of, PUTS is one amongst a pantheon of underground rap ensembles who don’t stay awake at nights, wrestling with the false notion that maybe someday Carson Daly will give a shit about them. With lyrics such as “When the stress burns my brain just like acid raindrops / Mary Jane is the only thing that makes the pain stop,” Acid Rain Drops reminds me of those surreal nights we spent at the broken bridge in Adyar. It also reminds me how much love I have for Gill-Scott Heron. God bless his groovy heart for convincing Jazz to have sex with hip-hop. Legend has it that hip-hop made breakfast in bed the next morning.

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People Under The Stairs – Acid Raindrops

kobayashi1Apparently, Montreal-based Kobayashi recorded their debut Strange Lights and Resolutions in just under a week. Thankfully, their spontaneity has yielded fantastic sounds. For anyone who appreciates eclectic music, Kobayashi’s “Shasta” is probably the greatest James Bond theme that never was. When the trumpet kicks in and swirls around those sticky beats like only the bastard child of DJ Shadow and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy could, you will kneel down before the altar of electro jazz. I haven’t heard music this cerebral and soulful at the same time since Radiohead decided to fuck with out heads and release Kid A.

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Kobayashi – Shasta

talvin_singhTalvin Singh is generally held responsible for the travesty that sometimes is Asian Underground. Convincing the Panjabi MCs and Fun-Da-Mental to release albums is probably the most heinous crime it has perpetuated. However, all is not pure evil, as a few of its originators – Talvin Singh and Sweety Kapoor – have put out some good, good music out there. Talvin, especially, is known for teaming up with notable UK acts such as David Sylvian, Massive Attack and The Future Sound of London. As evidenced by this awesome version of Big Time Sensuality with Icelandic goddess Bjork and Frou Frou’s songwriter Guy Sigsworth, the results are often breathtaking. Having said that, hearing Caucasian folks and NRIs fuse western elements with the sounds that evolved from the Vedas only adds to the frustration I have for Indian bands who are completely and willfully oblivious to the forms of expression that are inherent to the land their forefathers hail from.

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Bjork & Talvin Singh – Big Time Sensuality (Live)

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250px-rezso_seressWhen it comes to appreciating art, I have the attention span of a twitchy goldfish. Sometimes it’s a good thing…especially when it imbibes in me a glorious urge to explore all genres of music. But sometimes it prevents me from discovering the roots of all the sounds and noises that have so far shaped my aural tastes. For instance, about a year ago when I stumbled upon the legend of “Gloomy Sunday”, I posted an entry and promptly forgot about it. For those who don’t know, Hungarian composer Rezső Seress recorded Szomorú Vasárnap – the original version. Pretty soon rumours started circulating about how hordes of ill-fated lovers were committing suicide after listening to the song. Years later, of course Billie Holiday covered it in 1991 and gave it a soul twist like only she can.

456px-ladydayHowever, after reading about its dubious origins, I downloaded the original version of the song and…well, I would have given my left arm to know what inspired the composer to delve so far into his messed-up psyche. While Billie Holiday’s version remains the most easily accessible renditions of one of history’s darkest symphonies, it certainly wasn’t the most potent. Even Rezső Seress’s original composition wasn’t the most chilling version.

At least it was until yesterday.

Last night, as I was searching for Big Maybelle on Youtube, I came across a heap of versions of “Gloomy Sunday”. Included in the list of musicians who have been inspired enough to cover the song were Elvis Costello, Diamanda Galás, The Smithereens and others. After spending a good hour listening to as many versions as I possibly could, I have decided that renditions put forth by Bjork, Cathy Davey and Marie-Louise Damien were the finest of the lot.

bjork2Bjork has a way with music that lends her to toy with its permutations, without ever having to cultivate the annoying habit of being different just to be different. There is something so attractive about her craziness that you almost want to stuff her into your shirt pocket and show her off at jazz festivals. This version – released as a live cut in the year 2000 – is a stunning yet scary hypothesis of what might have happened if Bjork was born in Chicago during the 1920s when jazz was hot as the burning sweat that trickled down the foreheads of those playing it in blues bars and soul kitchens. It was more than just haunting; it was the stuff that angels with fractured jaws and salty tears were made of.

3700368441022I was really surprised to find French singer Marie Damien’s 1936 version of it on YouTube considering how bloody rare it is. Renamed as “Sombre Dimanche”, it was an operatic tribute to the original version with a couple of tenors on background vocals. While not as good as the ones that followed it, this song was probably the first cover of the tune to remain faithful to the 19 Century gothic vibes of the original.

Very little is known about Irish singer Cathey Davey;cathy-davey-blog I, for one, had never even heard of her existence until last night when her live version of “Gloomy Sunday” put me to sleep with it’s gorgeous melody. The song starts off with twinkling sounds reminiscent of tiny baby toes gently stepping on a xylophone. She sings the lyrics with a sort of a depraved innocence that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Oliver Twist. I am definitely sure that we all need to nurture a healthy obsession with Cathey Davey.

If that’s too much to ask for, I at least hope that you obsess about music…period. While doing so, dig deeper into the roots of what you love…I’m telling you, you’d be surprised.

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Marie-Louise Damien – Sombre Dimanche (Gloomy Sunday)

Bjork – Gloomy Sunday

Cathey Davis – Gloomy Sunday

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Cathy Davey’s Something Ilk

Bjork’s Vespertine

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It has turned out to be quite a fad to trash the current sound. During the Sixties, music fans found love, lust and LSD inside electric organs. They drank whiskey and left their women back home when the Seventies dawned upon them. The Eighties witnessed these poor souls paying more attention to clothing and accessories than on a steady drumbeat. Kurt Cobain ripped their hearts out with a shotgun blast, just as the Nineties were proving to be quite eclectic. Now as this generation hits midlife crisis, the music fans have decided to stake a claim in history by portraying themselves as whiny bitches.

They moan and groan about how pop music has degraded from Paul Simon goodness to Shakira’s bile-inducing shenanigans. The long-haired folk have decided that all attempts made by Metallica to recapture former thundering glory shall therefore be treacherous. Hip-hop apparently sucks nowadays, as does Rock n Roll.

I don’t fully understand all this negativity floating around. If you look inside bull’s arse, the odds of seeing anything else other than bullshit are pretty slim. If music enthusiasts keep switching channels on TV, or buy music from their local store, the chances of them hearing the sound of garbage writhing with itself are pretty fucking high.

And stop telling me there you are unsure what to download, and that there is nothing out there to capture your fancy. Ever tried Mulatu Astatke or The Greenhornes? You can’t find good music by typing the same damn keywords on Google and then being disappointed that 50 Cents, Akon and Snoop Dogg are the only downloadable options in the rap category. 50 Cents isn’t worth 2 cents and everyone knows it. Stop bitching about this and start looking for alternative options. Blackalicious are rhythmical gold. Prefuse 73 and Count Bass D throw out some great hip-hop tunes every now and then.

Also rock is not dead. It has gone into hiding, that’s all. Look deep enough and you will discover Decemberists, Tiger Tiger, Raconteurs and guys who call themselves Queens Of The Stone Age. Don’t look down upon what music has evolved into without paying at least a moment’s attention to bands like The Outlines, Zero 7, Belleruche or Brant Bjork.

This decade’s sound does not suck. It’s just no longer to be found where it once was.

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