Five mind-melting highlights from Björk's surprise DJ set
Have you ever wondered what it might be like if you invited Björk to DJ at your birthday party? Well, it looks and sounds a little something like this:
The Icelandic icon made an appearance at the fifth birthday party for cutting-edge experimental record label Tri Angle Records in New York over the weekend. She jumped behind the decks all in black, save for a shimmering sequinned face net (of course).
Björk is a natural fit with Tri Angle. They're an independent-minded collective of experimental producers that includes Fatima Al Qadiri, Clams Casino, Holy Other and Vulnicura collaborator The Haxan Cloak.
A great DJ mix - like a great mixtape or a great radio show - can act as a jumping off point for a whole new world of music discovery. Bjork’s mix for Tri Angle is one of the most inspiring hours of music I’ve heard in a long time.
It's an enthralling and transcendent blend of sounds and cultures, from Chilean flutes and overtone singing to Kate Bush and Brandy. It's full of surprising juxtapositions and surreal sound art.
The whole mix is available to stream on Björk’s Soundcloud but I’ve unpacked some of my favourite moments from Björk’s mind-melting mix for you, if you want to go deeper. Some of these musicians have been influences on her career for many years, others are more recent obsessions.
Abida Praveen is one of the finest living Sufi singers, and perhaps the greatest female Sufi singer in history. By all accounts a beatific figure in person, her live performances are something else. Her music brings on hallucinations and sweaty euphoria for both her and her audience members.
In 2012, Björk told The Guardian, "She is an incredible Sufi singer with a gorgeous voice. It's interesting to hear those poems sung by a woman. Female energy is different somehow, not better, just different … more pure emotion, and more open somehow. More receptive. It's hard to describe."
Kate Bush - My Lagan Love
Kate Bush recorded this Irish traditional in 1985, replacing some of the lyrics with words written by her brother John. It was the B-side on the 12” version of 'Cloudbusting'.
Björk was one of countless high-profile fans who made the pilgrimage to London to see Kate Bush’s return to the stage last year. This is one of two moments in Björk’s DJ mix where Kate Bush’s vocals lie on top of the harsh and crystalline industrial beats of Tri Angle producers Lotic and Rabit.
It’s a devastating combination and hints at how awesome it would be if Kate Bush were to team up with some contemporary producers for a new record. Can we get that happening please
Texan producer Rabit is at the forefront of a wave of producers (including Lotic, Vessel and Arca) who make alien and highly conceptual bass-heavy music. They've bubbled to the surface at the tail-end of a “grime renaissance” that’s been happening in the global underground over the past few years.
What does all that mean? It means a deconstruction and reconstruction of the kind of spooky and menacing feels favoured by the first wave of grime and dubstep pioneers. Artists like Burial, Skream and Kode 9, who came through before dubstep was a dirty word.
They play scary, galactic-sized beats. Glass shards shatter and then evaporate, nauseating digital sounds and echoes of various UK club subcultures from the past few decades ring out.
But all that darkness doesn’t mean you can’t dance and have fun. Please refer again to the Björk video embedded above.
Blackman - Bastards Remix
About half way through Björk’s mix the whole thing resets. We’re treated to five minutes of heavyweight jungle where an English MC’s shouts of "Keep jumping, ya bastards! We’re stomping now" intertwine with a classic break and hollowed-out bass line and grand heart-on-sleeve sweeping strings that wouldn’t sound out of place on a mid-1990s Björk single like 'Isobel' or 'Bachelorette'
David Hykes and The Harmonic Choir
David Hykes is an American composer and meditation teacher who has been studying the art of harmonic singing (also known as overtone singing or throat singing) for over 40 years. He has toured his 'Harmonic Choir' around the world many times over and he and Bjork form a unique mutual admiration society.
His incredible piece 'Solar Winds/Arc Descents' was the walk-on music during Björk’s Biophilia performances in 2011.
Hear how the reverb-soaked voices of the Harmonic Choir are completely cast adrift from conventional harmonic scales. They expertly glide up and down with spine-tingling precision.