Björk Project Part 3: Post

Björk’s 1995 album Post is a good example of what I’ve come to think of as the Björk Universe Theory, the way that I understand most of her music. The theory holds that there are multiple styles, ideas, and musical textures that run throughout her music, and different combinations of these elements produce her different albums and the songs on those albums. At the center of this universe is her voice, which is used in a pretty consistent way in her music. While this idea is somewhat present in Debut, this album takes a big step towards the mixing of these different elements, sometimes moving from one to another in the course of a song. Each of these elements bears her signature: many artists use electronics, but nobody uses them quite like her, and the same thing could be said for the big, dance flavored beats that pop up from time to time or the orchestral and choral elements that she sometimes uses. I’d like to look at the different bodies in this universe by looking at three of the standout tracks on the album, “Hyperballad” “Isobel” and “I Miss You.”
[Note: Even though I am embedding some videos of live performances, all of my comments refer to album versions.]
“Hyperballad” begins boldly, but on a small scale. The first thing we hear is a held note in the strings over a very low repeating bass line, followed by a tight, subtle percussion beat. Even as she adds elements, a synthesizer pattern, some harp arpeggios, it’s still a small, intimate song. Even the first chorus sounds like she’s holding something back. Over the next, verse and chorus, the song builds to an ecstatic peak. Then, the song starts to fold into itself, then ends.
It’s a much more polished sound than anything on Debut, and also a more spare sound. The way that she uses the elements of the song is pretty representative as well: the strings have a repeating pattern that fills out the sound. Synthesizers are used to provide structure (the bass line) and to add flavor (the small synth pattern). Dance beats amplify the energy of the song, but are not a focal point. One thing that I find consistently amazing about Björk’s music is how much weight she’s willing to put on the voice–many of her songs have hooks in the high register and low beats and bass, leaving her voice alone in the middle register.
“Isobel” strikes a completely different tone: this is the music of retro-futurism, where big Hollywood strings co-exist with slinky, tribal drum beats. Again, there are elements of her earlier music–the drum and bass line, vocal harmonies, strings–but they’re used in completely different combinations yielding distinctive and different music.
Likewise with, “I Miss You,” one of my all-time favorite tracks. It’s another omnivorous piece of music; it sounds to me like Martian Carnival in the year 2040 or something. It’s extremely rhythm-driven, with layers of percussion, glitchy electronics, horn riffs and a killer accordion loop.
One of the things that I’m not so in love with is Björk’s music videos. The video for “I Miss You” above is particularly gross, but I’ve never been a fan of Ren & Stimpy either.

One response to “Björk Project Part 3: Post”

  1. It’s great that you enjoy Bjork music.
    I liked to read your bjork albums reviews, and I hope you will post about the others soon.

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