Biophilia One Little Indian*****
Björk’s thesis for Biophilia(“a unique synthesis of music, nature and science”) has many facets. Technology, specially commissioned instruments, film and education workshops, and an intriguing nature stem from its protean quality. This is evident through the fact that the release date was pushed back to accommodate ideas born out of her recent epic live performances and residency at the Manchester International Festival.
Biophiliarests somewhere between the serious-minded and the playful, the medieval and the modern. The twinkling, frail strings on Moon transport us back to a time of clear-eyed innocence before the clutter of the 21st century. Björk’s voice soars, warm and strident, perfectly framed by the minimal arrangements, before melting into the majestic Thunderbolt, with its fizzing Tesla coils, deliberate pauses, choral beauty and swerving beats, which signal that her “romantic gene is dominant”.
Björk’s romantic gene dominates the entire record, from the way she splits her voice like a peachy atom on Crystallinefor harmonies, before breaking everything down into a sea of drum and bass, or how she suggests the beginning of the universe through mournful brass on the gothic Cosmonogy. Dark Matteris eerily prayerful, with Hollowexpanding on that prayer, “looking for some answers”. It is a companion piece to Crystalline, through wrestling with dubby beats and the struggle between past and future.
In exploring these seemingly irreconcilable musical and philosophical differences, Björk has created a universe of unfettered, joyous creativity; present on the gravitational pendulum harps of Solstice, the watery wails on Virus, the chiming “sharpsichord” that elevates her voice amid fuzzing electronics on Sacrifice, and the way she stretches the 4/4 time signature to breaking point.
The lovely synthesisers on Mutual Coreprovide a soft place for a distressed Björk (“I shuffle around the tectonic plates in my chest”) to fall back on. But then she takes you somewhere else, to what sounds like a mixture of avant-garde R&B and the inside of Terrence Malick’s head, before reaching back into her chest again.
This is a renewing, regenerating and metaphorical record that will keep dragging you back for its complexity, ambition and beauty. On Thunderbolt, Björk wonders “have I too often been craving miracles?” This record is an enthralling response.
Download tracks: Thunderbolt, Cosmonogy, Mutual Core