Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 162
Tues. June 18, 2012
“♫ All these accidents
that happen, follow the
dot/ coincidence makes
sense, only with you/ You
don’t have to speak, I
puzzle me/ the riddle
gets solved/ And you
push me up
I get asked, often, how do I pick my songs for DontForget365? Actually, the songs pick themselves. Every time I try to plan any song—it never works out because somehow, the universe always has other ideas and most importantly—I listen. I actually call these happy accidents— little music miracles. The way I hear it, nothing is an accident, everything happens for a reason.
Today’s for some reason, out of the recycled air of inspiration, I had the opening string part to “Joga” stuck in my head. But the thing is I’m not the Björk expert in our family—my wife is. She knows Björk solo stuff better that I do; so I had to ask her what Björk song I had in my head. The problem was— I didn’t have any words so I had to ridiculously hum the string part to my wife, trying desperately to describe the electronic back beats and Björk’s wailing vocal… but then I stopped, looking at her, I realized—“wait a minute, I just described every Björk song, she ever made.” We laughed for five minutes. So then, I went to my playlist and “Joga” was the first song listed for Björk in my IPod— that was all the sign I needed—thank you, universe—and just like that I had my song of the day.
Speaking of “Joga—” when I hear Homogenic, I think of Mark Bell’s innovative production techniques; did you realize this future sounding album was unbelievably recorded in 1997? Unbeknownst to most, Mark Bell was one of the groundbreaking members of the techno unit LFO. Homogenic was the first of many collaborations with Björk, Bell explained in Mark Pytlik’s biography called— Björk: Wow and Flutter, describing on how he soon became fluent in “Björk-speak,” when he said— “She’ll go, ‘Can you make that bass line more fury?’ It’s always poetic, which is good, because if she tells you exactly what to do, you’re more like an engineer. This way, you get to create atmospheres too.”
And what atmospheres did Bell and Björk create with “Joga.” I love the way the strings blend so imperfectly together with those techno back-beats. It’s not supposed to work but it does. I’ve heard mixes with only strings and others with only electronic beats and they each are lacking the other component. It was genius for Bell to combined both the quiet and loud together to make the dynamic and beautifully breath-taking “Joga”
So if you’ve been wondering, for all these years, why Björk sings “state of emergency” in “Joga,” she explained the inspiration behind one of my favorite Homogenic cuts, when she said— “I was doing a lot of experimenting with beats trying to make them sound volcanic. With this song, I really had a sort of National Anthem in mind. Not the National Anthem but certain classic Icelandic songs – very romantic, very proud.”
Did you know that “Joga” was inspired by one of Björk’s best friend’s Jóhanna “Jóga” Jóhannsdóttir – the wife of the future Mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr and also her personal assistant that kept her comfortably sane during the trying shoot of Dancer in the Dark; Björk discussed this when she said—
“Well, I wrote the song about my best friend. Everybody should have one of those friends who you can call 24 hours and be abstract and they get it. We are basically emotionally married. I was in the middle of Iceland on Christmas, because I had overdosed on people, and I just had to be on my own. I was on my own for about a week, and we only had two hours of daylight. So I was doing very long walks, maybe ten hours a day over there in the ice and the mountains in the dark. I had been away from Iceland for a long time, and I was missing it very much. And the person who was keeping me going was my friend. So it’s a sort of love song to my friend, but also to Iceland.”
I love the way Björk speaks and describes her songs in poetic terms. I am especially amazed at the way she created a very personal romantic anthem—a love song to her homeland. Björk described a memory to Bell wanting him to recreate the moment she stood overlooking at the top of a mountain in the studio— Björk explained this reflection when she said—
“I had a very magical moment where I walked for a very long time, and I came on top of a mountain and looked over a quarter of the island from that point. It was very strange weather, so all the ice over an incredibly big area was melting. It was crackling like popcorn but echoing a very strange noise.”
“The clouds were very, very thick and very moist, like a blanket, but very low. And the cities – all my favorite little towns that I had been as a girl – were mirrored in the clouds because they were so full of water. And the light from the light posts in all the cities was orange. Then above the clouds were the northern lights.”
“It was just a very magical moment, both visually and emotionally, because this was the quarter of the country I loved so much. And to hear this sort of popcorn echoing over all this – it was really gorgeous. The beat [in the song Joga] is trying to be that, while the strings represent emotion.”
Wow! And all I had was the opening string section of “Joga” in my head and I never knew this mountain, her friend and Björk’s wanting to create a personal poetic anthem to Iceland is so wonderful, I have to hear “Joga” again.
Get moved by Björk’s mountain song, one of the most beautiful futuristic sounding songs in all of Björk’s eclectic discography. Take a leap inside Mark Bell’s towering atmosphere’s, let Björk take you there where lyrical wonder, stringed imagination and ingenious back beats to create the lovely and eternal sound of “Joga.”