Those that read the site might not expect me to be a fan of Bjork’s music, but I am. This might not be a consensus across the board for all MonsterFresh.com writers, but I’ve always liked her work and my affinity grew after she started physically attacking and slap-fighting journalists and paparazzi. I had a great appreciation for the Vespertine album but I never really put the effort into listening and/or trying to find that same appreciation for the A cappella-centric album Medúlla. I think that the drastic shift between those two albums, along with the even less accessible “Drawing Restraint 9” work with artist/husband Mathew Barney, helped to slow down the Icelandic songstress’ momentum among the masses. You need to pick your battles and, although I enjoyed “Drawing Restraint 9” and am someone that often does spend extra time deconstructing and absorbing various forms of artistic expression, I didn’t feel like putting that energy into Medúlla. There is too much out there that draws my attention and sometimes it’s an issue as simple as, “Fuck it! I’m not going to work at this just to try and experience a sound!” I had purchased a used copy of Bjork’s latest album, Volta, for my lady a while back but, neither of us really paid much attention to this latest effort, until now.
We accrued a lot of new music around the same time and, although Volta has been programmed into her MP3 player for months, and, even though I knew that it featured Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, neither of us got around to listening to it until recently. About a week ago, my girlfriend said to me, “That Bjork album is actually really good” and this morning she had me check out one of its songs to confirm her suspicion that Antony Hegarty may be singing on the track as well.
I first discovered Antony Hegarty while fucking around with the On-Demand feature on my cable box and scanning the free movies. We watched and enjoyed the Pixies documentary (“Loud Quite Loud“) and “Heima” (Sigur Ros) so I was really excited to find the film “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man“. There were some random interview clips with Cohen where he talked about his life and history but, for the most part, the film revolved around a January, 2005 tribute show at the Sydney Opera House. I was disappointed and hadn’t intended to sit through other people covering his classics, but what can you expect from a movie with Mel Gibson as the executive producer? I began fast-forwarding through to find the clips with Leonard in them but stopped when I saw an awkward chubby boy come out onto the stage to cover “If It Be Your Will” His hair had the long black stringiness of the drowned girl from “The Ring” and he reminded me instantly of the torturing Albino from “The Princess Bride“. He looked much younger than his mid-30’s as he shuffled around like he was waiting for mother to take him to the bathroom. When he sang, his emotion was reflected in the neurological stroke-like twitches from David Cronenberg’s “Scanners” but his magnificent siren-like voice poured out of his head like a luminous extra-terrestrial from “Cocoon“. “Who the fuck was this guy and why had I never bothered to find out before?” Upon further research, I was able to learn that Antony had actually been signed for his debut album by David Tibet (Current 93), after Tibet had discovered one of his demos in the late 90’s.
Just based on that single performance, which stole the whole film, we have become fans of Antony and his abilities in my home. We had planned to attend his recent performance in Portland, Or where his group, Antony & The Johnsons, were backed by a live orchestra, but were unable to make it. I have access to most, if not all, of his other work, but have not taken the time to really listen to any of it. I know this may sound odd, but I haven’t been in the “right mindset” to sit down and focus the way I feel that I may need to. A friend of mine, who has two of his cds, described them to have that depressing Syd Barrett vibe. Basically, the music is beautiful and amazing but it isn’t always for people that possess blades and/or wrists.
At this point, it is probably clear to you as a reader that this isn’t really a review of Volta at all, because I still haven’t even properly listened to it. You may also have realized that this isn’t even a review of Antony’s work or about the fact that he has a new album out, because I haven’t adequately listened to much of his work either. Most disturbing for you to realize may be that I’m not really completely focused on writing about their collaborations on Volta either, because I’ve only listened to one of the two songs that they’ve done together. My main intention is to introduce you to Antony, reintroduce you to the work of Bjork, and focus on one specific video. I’m doing things a bit backwards. Instead of returning from an experience I’ve had so that I can elaborate on it for you, I plan to start at the beginning with you and see how things turn out. This may seem like more of a plug or advertisement than a review, but I did want to explain the reason for my new-found peak in interest for both of these artists and to share what stimulated that for me with you.
The song that my girlfriend, Kim, had me listen to was “Dull Flame of Desire” and, after checking on the internet, we confirmed that it definitely did feature Antony on the track. I also quickly found a video for it on You Tube. This video is visually stunning and is sectioned into 3 pieces. I vaguely remember hearing about a video contest that Bjork was doing but hadn’t paid much attention to it. Apparently, this was the result. Here’s what is posted about the video on Bjork.com
‘The Dull Flame of Desire’ features lyrics taken from a translation of a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev as it appears in the film ‘Stalker’ by Andrei Tarkovsky. Taken from her most recent studio album ‘Volta’, ‘Dull Flame’ is written and produced by Björk and follows recent singles ‘Earth Intruders’, ‘Declare Independence’, ‘Innocence’ and ‘Wanderlust’.
Meanwhile the video concept for ‘Dull Flame’ is as unique. Out of hundreds entrants for the “Innocence” music video competition (which ran on www.bjork.com offering new directors the chance to work with Björk), she chose 3 new directors to collaborate on the “Dull Flame” video.
Björk and Antony performed against green screen in New York then each director was sent the raw footage to edit and create their piece. Christoph Jantos (Berlin) Masahiro Mogari (Tokyo) and Marçal Cuberta Junca (Girona) are the chosen directors. Each director was given their own section of the film, to develop how they wished – on completion the 3 films were edited together in London to make the final music video.
I had to post something about the project because, although it’s less than a month old, I’m still somewhat shocked that I haven’t seen more press about it. Sites like Mog.com usually have a post the minute something like this is announced and this lack of coverage may be a reflection of a lack of interest that people feel towards Bjork and her music at this point in her career. Radiohead’s interactive “House of Cards” video has been promoted like crazy for it’s innovation but, little has been said about this video. Zach Braff (“Scrubs“, “Garden State“) made a terrible video for singer Jay Clifford’s equally terrible song, “Know when to Walk Away“. It was composed from clips of myspace members lip-syncing the song and even this video received more hype than “Dull Flame of Desire“. For anyone that hasn’t viewed that train wreck yet, it is actually as bad as it sounds.
For those of you that spent your time viewing the “Dull Flame of Desire” video deconstructing the step-by-step production methods used through after-effects, save it for AV club or enter the damn contest next time. I don’t need to hear about the lack of innovation or difficulty because I thought the video and concept behind it was great. With MTV playing little to no music videos, it is a fascinating time to watch and see in which ways and directions the world of video will expand and advance. Hopefully this will also help to give an added spark and resurgence to the careers of these 2 amazing vocalists.