With Telegram, edgy Icelandic woman-child Björk continues to push the post-rock envelope. Her new album consists mostly of remixed versions of songs from her second solo LP, Post. But unlike many remix albums, Telegram is no slapdash effort: Björk recorded new vocals for many of the songs and collaborated with a well-chosen array of artists from the avant-garde and electronic worlds.
The best idea here was to rerecord the beautifully naked love song “Hyper-ballad” with neochamber-music outfit the Brodsky Quartet — the new vocals and strings make the song even more stirring than the original. Similarly, Post’s hushed, moody “Possibly Maybe” is interestingly transformed into a trance-y, bass-heavy track laden with distorted vocals. And on Telegram’s sole original composition, the atmospheric “My Spine,” Björk sings with raw emotion, accompanied only by a classical percussionist playing exhaust pipes as if they were chimes.
Not all of the old songs survive Björk’s drastic rethinking: The Post version of “I Miss You” is an amalgam of styles, with electronic drums melding into African bongos mixed with jazzy horn playing; the remix on Telegram renders the song as lounge-flavored yuppie cocktail music. The remix of “Headphones” — a sexy song that Björk and ex-boyfriend Tricky wrote about falling asleep to each other’s music — is all bass with none of the original lyrics, a minimalist track that sounds avant-garde just for the sake of it. And “Army of Me,” the most radical of the remixes, is cruelly stripped of its vocals, melodies and heart.
But for every track where Björk seems to be maiming her own work, there is a song such as “Cover Me,” a quiet, harpsichord-driven tune from Post that is convincingly re-conceived as a drum-and-bass effort by producer Dillinja. If such creative destruction is sometimes hard to understand, it may be exactly what makes Björk such an innovator.