20 years on: the precise moments which make Bjork’s Post so essential
Two decades ago, Björk was reborn.
Her first album proper, Debut – discounting the self-titled effort released when she was just 12 and barely sentient – had established Björk as a strange, otherworldly talent, elfin vocals trilling and dancing over curious, hip-hop-influenced beats and jazzy Scandinavian chamber pop. It caught the attention. Björk was finding her voice.
Two years later, however, its successor Post was the work of a different artist. It was a voice found. Musically, warm yet aggressive electronics were at the forefront, the growing influence of Tricky’s dark and tribal take on trip-hop evident. But vocally, lyrically, in terms of attitude and personality, that’s where the real Björk had come to exist. She was a woman now, on the verge of turning 30, blossoming into her identity. At turns confrontational, aggressive, vulnerable, jealous, insecure, disarmingly frank; Björk’s ability to tap into the depths of human relationships was uncanny, and a most unlikely star was born. Post even contained a global hit single – a big band rendition of Betty Hutton’s It’s Oh So Quiet – but that song is such an anomaly in the context of Post as to exist almost parallel to the record as a whole: a record made up of countless, vital moments which have echoed through culture.
Post was the real genesis of Björk’s journey to becoming one of contemporary alternative music’s definitive artists. These are the five precise moments which made the album such a revolutionary blueprint.
Army Of Me0:01
Before the listener can begin to settle, a distant, scratchy swell of static bursts to a white hot explosion, a snare snaps and a brash, flooding synthesised bassline emerges. The Björk seen on the cover, staring down the barrel of the camera, world moving around her, stands strong at the heart, throwing out orders and demanding compliance. She is an army.
This ageless track builds for minutes around a deeper-than-deep bass frequency and a shuffling drum pattern while Björk paints waxy worlds in words, a leafy, idyllic visualisation of human fragility and love, its potential for joy and ache. A kick drum begins to build, joined by acidic squiggles, hi-hats sift through, and the first snare hit on 3:10 suddenly blows the whole thing wide open into an euphoric, thrilling Euro house celebration. It’s breathtaking, still.
Tricky collaborated on two tracks on Post: Enjoy, and the womb-like claustrophobia of closer Headphones. The former is a sinister, filthy electronic landscape, indescribably dense and textured and sexually charged. While Björk’s creeping vocals dominate again, the first potent, almost sarcastic parp of horns as the song clicks through the gears into its sneering pre-chorus is a pivotal moment.
“Electric shocks, I love them! With you – a dozen a day!” Björk is, at her core, an idealist, a romanticist. Her visions of perfect love are what makes the breakdown so vivid. Amidst Post’s forceful density, Possibly Maybe shows sparks of her almost naive tendencies. Yet by the track’s close, she has reverted to the kind of hyper specific, anatomically intimate expressions of loneliness which would later come to define this year’s masterpiece, Vulnicura: “Since we broke up I’m wearing lipstick again, I suck my tongue in remembrance of you”.
The album’s closer is overwhelmingly close, a voyeuristic snapshot of a moment: the listener joins the protagonist beneath the covers on a cold evening, a space shared only by with her beloved headphones, and the endless possibilities and potential tangents of a single mixtape. The voices which dart in an out of the mix are all Björk – whispering, sighing, wincing, muttering phrases to herself in patterns, lucid dreaming, drifting from the waking to the sleeping world. As the visions and images become cyclical, the ambience draws in, and the language suddenly slips into Icelandic. It’s as if in that moment, the groggy Björk succumbs to sleep, her mind slips to autopilot. She dreams in Icelandic. It’s profoundly human, so, so moving. It’s the final statement of what many still considering Bjork’s definitive work.