Thursday, October 13, 2011

Biophilia

It has been 4 years since Björk's last album, the often derided Volta. That effort found Björk paired with some questionable collaborators; it was probably her least successful major release. There has been a lot of talk about Biophilia: its merging of science and technology with music, its iPad app, its newly invented instruments. I've heard snatches of it on the radio, but have yet to hear it in one sitting, in its entirety. I've got the candles and incense lit around my Björk shrine, the lights are dimmed, and I've copied and pasted the list of tracks with each track's subtitle and writer(s).

It's time.

I'll post my initial reactions as I listen to it for the first time:

Moon (Lunar cycles, sequences)..............Björk, Damian Taylor

Delicate intro with halting sprechgesang lyrics turning ominous, then flowing smoother reminiscent of a Verspertine song, very natural voice.

Thunderbolt (Lightning, arpeggios)........Björk, Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir

Majestic church organ morphs into science-fiction soundtrack behind B's impassioned lyric- turn up your subwoofers on this one.

Crystalline (Structure).........................Björk

Music-box "gameleste", Joga-esque rhythm- effective lyrics reflect an impression of patterns.

Cosmogony (Music of Spheres, equilibrium)...Björk, Sjón

The creation story as seen through Bjork's and Sjón's sensibilities, beautiful ensemble brass and choir, wonderful refrain.

Dark Matter (Scales)........................Björk, Mark Bell

Bizarre wordless vocalizations over funeral organ, nightmare soundtrack, very evocative of its subject.

Hollow(DNA, rhythm)........................Björk

Pipe organ madness through the space-time of DNA.

Virus (Generative music)....................Björk, Sjón

B takes on the role of an invading virus over "gamelest" background.
Infect me! Infect me!

Sacrifice (Man and Nature, notation)........Björk

Wiggy "sharpsichord" plays behind heavy lyrics.

Mutual Core (Tectonic plates, chords).......Björk

Volcanic eruptions punctuate the irresistible forces of plate tectonics.
Wild, wild stuff!

Solstice (Gravity, counterpoint)............Björk, Sjón

Organic, oriental approach to daily cycles.

BONUS TRACKS:
Hollow (original 7-minute version)..........Björk

More intense than short version, actually works better in a longer form.

Dark Matter (with Choir & Organ)............Björk, Mark Bell

Lighter, not as scary as first version.

Náttúra....................................Björk

Originally a single released to benefit Icelandic conservation efforts, with a real drummer and spooky choir, sung in Icelandic, somewhat different than the rest of the album.


Whew! What can I say? It would be a great mistake to think of this as an album of pop music. The "new" instruments sound great, although traditional organ voices are used even more. I never thought anyone would make such an experimental album with so much pipe organ in it! Musically and sonically challenging, yet her voice retains its natural sonority and it is as compelling as anything she's ever done. The sprechgesang delivery of the lyrics verge on becoming a bit stilted at times, but on the whole it is quite listenable. It is a n audiophile's delight- test your sound system with this disc! The Biophilia Wikipedia article covers the concepts behind each track far better than I ever could. Even if you aren't interested in Björk or her music it's well worth reading to see how her creative genius works.

While I was listening and writing this post, the Reykjavík Grapevine put up a review of Björk's Wednesday night concert at Harpa.

By Professor Batty



2 Comments:

Blogger KokoWorks said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm looking forward to hearing the whole album, I have kept up with the 3 singles as she's pre-released them through the Biophilia app. If you haven't checked that out yet Batty, it's a must on your to-do list! It's really awesome.


Blogger Professor Batty said...

I suspect that this project will go down in musical history as a milestone.

Post a Comment