14 août 1995

The Academy

New York, États-Unis


A Giddy Prance, a Pregnant Pause

At the Academy on Tuesday night, Björk was a child of nature at play in a world of technology. Wearing a
white dress, she skipped and pranced around a stage that held both stylized trees and radio towers. Her
first song was “Headphones,” about listening to a tape while falling asleep. “I like this resonance,” she
mused, over humming keyboards and quiet, distorted guitar. “I don’t recognize myself. This is very

Björk’s songs bend pop away from recognizable shapes. In a voice that can be girlish and airy or implacably
penetrating, she sings clear, unhurried melodies with unexpected turns and jumps. Those vocal lines are
cantilevered above riffs and drones that can shift into dance rhythms. But more often, they veer off
toward uncharted domains.

Björk, who grew up in Iceland but now lives in England, has been working with innovators in British
dance music, including Nellee Hooper from Soul II Soul, Graham Massey of 808 State and the leading triphop
songwriter, Tricky. They like to take songs apart, and so does Björk ; her arrangements are full of
silences and amorphous sounds, sometimes holding a song together as much through implication as
through a steady beat.

At the Academy, Björk had an eccentric backup group : an accordionist, a keyboardist, a drummer, an
onstage sound mixer and recorded material. Now and then she set the crowd in motion with a thumping,
blipping dance groove, but she also used eerie, skeletal settings. In “Venus as a Boy,” from her 1993 album
“Debut” (Elektra), she was accompanied only by a simulated harpsichord ; in “Possibly Maybe,” from her
current album, “Post” (Elektra), her voice seemed to float past the music, as if riding a raft down a
meandering river.

Björk doesn’t get disoriented ; she navigates. In her songs she plumbs oceans, gazes from mountaintops,
regenerates herself in forests and skyscrapers. She copes with the irrationality of human behavior ; she
gives herself over to the unpredictability of desire. She ended with “It’s Oh So Quiet,” a rakish, swingstyle
putdown of love’s ups and downs, then followed it with a hushed version of “Big Time Sensuality,”
whispering, “I’m gonna be vulnerable” and “Sensitive, not closed.” For all its risks and mysteries, her
private sphere was utterly inviting.

Two opening acts preserved the otherworldly tone. The Aphex Twin, from offstage, played half an hour
of dense, evolving dance music, some of it on the edge of pure dissonant rhythm. Acacia, which includes
Björk’s keyboardist, Guy Sigsworth, and a singer named Alexander, performed intriguing, slow-motion
trip-hop songs, in sound-collage arrangements that incorporated everything from hard-rock to a Japanese

Jon Pareles - The New York Times

Considering her enormous amount of unbridled energy, I’d have to say Björk’s plunge into dance music
was as wise a career move as John Travolta accepting the Vincent Vega role in “Pulp Fiction.” She
personifies clubland at its most innocently goofy, her cheeky, violent happiness possessing her like some
wide-eyed kid on a virgin hit of Ecstasy. But unlike perpetually smiling groovers like, say, Deee-Lite—
whose new age, mushroom-capped, have-a-nice-day sentiments evoke something akin to Donovan-with-
turntables—Björk’s got a few skeletons in her romper room. When “Hyperballad” swells to its rhythmic
crescendo and Björk scuttles to the edge of the stage, the exhilarated throng flailing their arms in the air
seem oblivious that Björk is techno-fantasizing about standing on the edge of a cliff, imagining what her
body might sound like slamming against the ground.

Björk is not the first crooner to embrace techno. U2, for example, mine clubland for the purpose of
deconstructing their gods-of-’80s-rock image. But Björk’s transition from alternative rock to samplers
and other neat gadgetry is more instinctual. Beginning her show on her knees in the dark, her voice
immediately sent the crowd into a tizzy with the opening lines of “Headphones,” a hushed, ambient ode
to a DJ’s mix tape. “My headphones they saved my life,” she twistedly warbled. “Your tape it lulled me to
sleep.” Clutching one ear and squinting her eyes, absorbing the music inside her head into her body,
Björk turned sound into stimulus. A handful of songs later, during “Enjoy,” she wailed about wishing
there could be sex without touching and everyone succumbed to the big beats, immersing themselves in
Björk’s fantasy.

Throughout the likes of “Army Of Me” and “Human Behaviour,” Björk was as engrossingly silly as one of
those sing-a-long dots that bounce on top of “Sesame Street” subtitles. I’ve seen many a show at the
Academy, but I never felt its floor shake ; during “Violently Happy,” I thought maybe someone might have
snuck something into the coffee I had before the show. On the other hand, soothing journeys like “Isobel,”
“Possibly Maybe,” and “Venus As A Boy” provided some chilled-out tranquillity.

Nothing quite prepared me for the huge grin of an encore that was “It’s Oh So Quiet.” This Sinatra-like,
big-band swinger gave her the chance to channel her quirkiness into one hell of a camped-up show stopper.
The result was utterly euphoric and rather comforting : even if Björk pulls a Linda Rondstadt down the
line (working old standards with big band leader Nelson Riddle, etc.) you can bet her whacked-out
sensibilities will make anything she handles something special. “It takes courage to enjoy it,” she whispered,
backed only by a church organ before walking offstage for good. Björk’s “it” is a big time sensuality,
which is just another phrase for what happens when Björk has her way with music and sound.

MTV Online


01. Le Petit Chevalier/Headphones
02. Army of Me
03. The Modern Things
04. Human Behaviour
05. Isobel
06. Venus as a Boy
07. Possibly Maybe
08. I Go Humble
09. The Anchor Song
10. Hyperballad
11. Enjoy
12. I Miss You
13. Crying
14. Violently Happy
15. It’s Oh So Quiet
16. Big Time Sensuality

sur scène

  • Guy Sigsworth
  • Kobayashi ’Coba’ Yasuhiro
  • Leila Arab
  • Trevor Morais