Björk’s latest pioneering offering is given the once over by Rory Johnson.
(One Little Indian)
Björk has made the art of mixing success and artistic respect look remarkably easy over her almost twenty-year career, rising like an Icelandic volcanic artefact discovered and celebrated for its idiosyncratic dignity. Her latest venture Biophilia once again tries to outdo her previous work, released as an album accompanied for the first time with accompanying iPad and iPhone apps. Elaborate and innovative, it is a move that is quite extraordinarily Björk, requiring the services of Apple, National Geographic and David Attenborough to make happen.
The app has also been described as “a semi-educational project for children using sound, texts and visuals”, covering such topics such as plate tectonics, human biorhythm and genetics. After trying out a couple of the tracks’ apps (there is one for each song), your brain cannot help to wonder the scope of how an album can be utilised to its fullest using visualisations. At the same time, because of the depth of thought used to create the new format, a part of you does feel that the album itself is slightly outfought by the finger tap of the touchscreens and the song essays.
The music itself slithers along in a similar fashion to her previous work, with world and folk styles being mixed with futuristic and dark electronica. New musical instruments are used on this album, proving how much Björk is striving to be as modern and daring as possible. Melancholy is the overwhelming sensation produced by the record, with tracks like ‘Dark Matter’ and ‘Virus’ melting the listener into the artist’s unique musical world. Meanwhile, the short, sharp twists of savage drum and bass-mangled electronic in Mutual Core and Crystalline recall the likes of Aphex Twin.
The album’s pioneering format should not hide the fact that in general Biophilia lacks the same unnerving power as records by the likes of Fever Ray or Portishead. The album does, however, indicate how in this highly open technological age, technology itself has the ability to push the album format to its fullest potential.
Follow Rory on Twitter @iamhungrrr