For all its popularity and critical acclaim I never really got Bjork’s music, either with the Sugarcubes or without. More a quirky oddball than a genuine innovator, she seemed to offer nonthreatening weirdness tailor-made for people who consider themselves creative and open-minded. With that in mind, I don’t know how to explain the remarkable transformation chronicled on her stunning second album, Post (Elektra). Part of its dramatic power must come from her collaborators: Nellee Hooper (who’s worked extensively with Massive Attack and produced Bjork’s dance-pop-oriented solo debut), Tricky, Graham Massey of 808 State, and Mo’ Wax mainstay Howie Bernstein. Thanks to its broad-minded production the album covers plenty of ground, but ultimately arrives at a melange of ambient, trip-hop, and pop so distinct it seems to have little in the way of direct antecedents. Bjork’s singing is instantly recognizable but considerably limited, and her previous recordings have exploited the novelty of her vocal tricks–particularly the throaty-growl-to-soaring-wail thing that first got the Sugarcubes noticed–without doing much to push her range. She hasn’t managed much of a vocal transformation on the new album, but deft production and her strongest batch of tunes ever take the focus away from the strangeness of her singing. It’s worth asking how the album’s sumptuous production will translate live. Massive Attack draw on similar technological tricks, and their show a few weeks back was a disappointingly staid re-creation of their albums. Considering Bjork’s still-growing popularity, this sold-out gig looks like the prelude to a bigger tour and should probably be considered a work in progress. Aphex Twin (aka Richard James), whose new album …I Care Because You Do (Sire) is one of the most fascinating, probing, and difficult techno/ambient/whatever albums ever made, will DJ prior to Bjork’s performance and afterward downstairs in the Smart Bar. Friday, 7 PM, Metro 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jurgen Teller.