Album Flashback #16 // Björk – Debut

They say never judge an album by its cover but in the case of Björk’s 1993 solo album Debut it’s hard not to. After all, even if you didn’t know the artist from her frankly mad tenure with The Sugarcubes, there is a glint in her eyes that seems to say she’s going to surprise you...

Of course, Debut is NOT her debut solo album (That was released way back in 1977 when she was just 11!) but it is her first album released following stints in a diverse number of bands and a very good one. Produced by Nellee Hooper, and made in collaboration with Graham Massey, Oliver Lake and Corky Hale and others, it’s a gentle collection of trip hop, dance and jazz influenced songs that still impress many listens later.

With this step away from the more rock flavoured musical angles she was previously party to, it’s a refreshing listen placing a very Björk like stamp on proceedings immediately. The warm, undated production from Nellee Hooper accentuates the already alternative ideas on display here and makes them even more excellent. Debut is themed around happier vibes than her later, darker hued records and in that respect it hasn’t aged that much.

Debut is still a potent listen, combining heart warming strings with electronic and trip hop and sounding quite odd on occasion to boot. Surprisingly, it garnered some negative reviews upon release and it’s hard to see why except that it sounds very different to her work previous to this. Perhaps that is the charm of Debut, it’s never aggressively dark and often playful in its melodies. Björk may have a reputation for being noisy but it’s almost always with a happiness of some form.

Just listen to Violently Happy or Big Time Sensuality, two of the highlights among many and it’s hard not to be struck by must how happy she is. By getting completely lost in her own creativity she creates a dense but shimmering set of songs that embed themselves in the mind very easily. The excellent production work of Nellee Hooper is, of course, also a huge factor in the enjoyment of the album as well.

Violently Happy is a prime example of just how the production of a sing helps propel it into the mind so much more easily when done right. The looped synth and beats suggest s0mething calm yet the vocals are at odds with that in the best way. In fact, it’s probably true to say that Björk is rarely less than violently happy during this record. Listen to the simply beautiful Anchor Song or Like Someone in Love and it’s a gentle but striking reflection of an artist who stated in later interviews she could do better than this already excellent album and has in many ways done so many times over since.

Words: Sebastian Gahan. 

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