The Throwback: Gling Glo

Bjork Gudmundsdottir & Trio Gudmundar Ingolfssonar : Gling Glo (One Little Indian, 1990)

1993's Debut is Bjork’s official solo debut, but every fan knows she was a very busy girl before that. She recorded her first Icelandic album at age seven, and several punk bands later, she became famous as singer of the Sugarcubes. In 1990, between Sugarcubes albums she released Gling Glo, a very odd little record, recorded in one day with a jazz quartet and sung entirely in Icelandic. The liner notes and credits also appear in Icelandic, which is a crazy language to begin with, and leaves the circumstances of the recording as a bit of a mystery. She is credited here under her full name Bjork Gudmundsdottir and little fanfare is made of her appearance, she’s just one of the band. The vibe here is cool and relaxed, like something you could picture hearing at a smoke-filled martini lounge in Reykjavik. It’s a refreshing contrast to hear Bjork’s voice in pure organic form, without all the electronic glitchiness and computer sheen that accompanies so much of her solo work. Here, she just belts everything out in her native tongue with unhinged enthusiasm and childlike glee, against a simple backing of piano, drums, and upright bass. In fact, some of the songs almost seem like Icelandic nursery songs, all sing-songy and happy. One assumes that many of the songs are standards, since each is credited to a different writer. No matter what the material, here Bjork really proves her ability as a jazz singer, and if she ever gets bored with experimental electronics, she has the makings for a great traditional jazz diva. Her vocal range is delightfully all over the map here, growling and screeching loudly and quietly in her breathlessly trademark fashion. The album has a nice spontaneous feel, as though everything was recorded in one quick take (it likely was.) Although it does occasionally drag with a feeling of sameness, Gling Glo is a fun, utilitarian record, perfect as jazzy background music for the workplace, and good to turn up loud for dancing at the cocktail party. (Rating 8/10)

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