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As Remix albums go ...
on 30 December 2005
You’ve got to hand it to Björk. Even when she is involved in schemes with more of a whiff of “cash-cow” about them than others, she is still savvy enough to give it an idiosyncratic twist that will let you forgive her instantly. It also helps that often the results aren’t too bad either. "Debut’s" remix EP, "The Best Mixes From The Album “Debut” For People Who Don’t Buy White Labels", was given limited fanfare and a paper sleeve and her later ‘Greatest Hits’ package received two incarnations (a single CD compiled by fans via web vote and a thirty-five track set spanning twenty five years). The most successful of these cash-ins would prove to be this, the remix EP for "Post", involving an eclectic bunch of collaborators and music mates, providing Björk with her most experimental release to date. If you thought Post was diverse, be prepared for something incredibly different altogether …
Of course, remix EPs defy concepts and thematic allusions that most people would write about concerning albums, so much must be said about Björk’s choice of music aficionados that pepper the album in all varying genres and sounds. In the classical corner we have the Brodsky Quartet, who give “Hyperballad” a riveting workout, and trusted collaborator Eumir Deodato, who gives us a luscious live lounge performance of “Isobel” and the epic swoon of “You’ve Been Flirting Again” in his and Björk’s own re-workings respectively. In the avant-dance arena, we have Mark Bell’s spaced out version of “Possibly Maybe” and Graham Massey’s techno-stomp through “Army Of Me”, and for the urban market we have Dobie and Rodney P giving “I Miss You” a laidback hip-hop dub, as well as Dillinja sending the bats in “Cover Me” into a junglist frenzy. The rest of the soundscapes involve industrial techno (Outcast’s brutal “Enjoy” remix), menacing minimalism (Mika Vainio’s sparse “Headphones”) and some exhaust pipes (“My Spine”, a B side performed alongside percussionist Evelyn Glennie), all to varying effect.
As stated earlier, if "Post" summoned up an image of Björk trying to corner every market with each song, "Telegram" would be its extreme niche-plumbing equivalent. What makes "Telegram" an enchanting listen is that all of "Post’s" musical elements are present and correct, but they are blown out to such an extreme as to turn the songs into different beasts entirely, all the while without sacrificing the original source material. So “Enjoy” turns into an electrified mosh pit, Outcast’s Richard Brown and Beaumont Hannant providing a sublime example of the dark pleasures Björk’s lyrics sing of on the album (here she is reduced to little more than a squeal). “You’ve Been Flirting Again” transforms from a cautionary lament into an obsessive mood piece thanks to Björk’s own production and “Hyperballad” climbs further up the mountain with little more than a cello, two violins and a viola. And whilst some pieces pay dividends, others aren’t nearly as satisfying.
“My Spine’s” inclusion is a curious one, for example, not because of its being a B side but more to do with its being a lot more winsome and slight than the meatier material on offer. Graham Massey reworks “Army Of Me” into a dull march with not much else going for it and Dobie’s “I Miss You”, though well put together, rather misses the point, Björk’s maniacal delivery replaced by a laconic, less-interesting wail and a rap. Much better are Dillinja’s jungle excursion, using the bats from “Cover Me’s” original demo, and Vainio’s nightmarish rework of “Headphones”, the latter probably best listened safe at home. As remix albums go, it’s a notch above the rest, and at least Björk has enlisted people who seem to have a better grasp of what a remix can be, but it’s better to approach this Telegram with caution before you open it.