Album review | Björk: ‘Biophilia’

OCTOBER 24, 2011

Album art for Biophilia, by Bjork

Album art for Biophilia, by Bjork

Everyone’s favorite Icelandic experimental pop singer Björk has always been known to try sending pop music in different directions, from using the sounds of steam engines in her Oscar-nominated song “I’ve Seen it All” to her a cappella “Medúlla” in 2004.

Bjork’s newest album, “Biophilia,” released on Oct. 10, over four years after her last studio release (2007′s “Volta”), is a music-making venture with iPad technology.

The album, partially recorded on an iPad, is a haunting 10-song collection. With a natural and space theme, songs like “Moon,” “Dark Matter” and “Virus” carry slow beats and unique rhythms, such as being written in 17/8 time instead of 4/4 time or using unique instruments such as a Tesla coil on the song “Thunderbolt.”

The music itself is chilling. Like most of Björk’s music, “Biophilia” is very atmospheric and can produce incredible mental images if the listener allows himself to get immersed in the music, perhaps in the darkness with some high-quality headphones. Songs like “Cosmogony” and “Crystalline,” in their use of Bjork’s unique voice, send shivers down the spine. The aural experience creates an ambience that ranges from the incredible to, at turns, the alienating.

The songs themselves are solid, but one senses that Björk isn’t as into the songs as she was in early hits like “Bachelorette” or “Hyperballad.” There are other times where the experimental nature of the music seems to overpower her, as though her main interest is in playing with new technology.

Those who purchase “Biophilia” for the iPad will find some special features along with it. Several apps were created alongside the album, where the iPad user can play special features along with the song, such as remixing the opening beats of “Moon” by changing the phases of the moons on the screen, or preventing a virus attack in “Virus” (stopping the “virus” will also stop the song).  “Biophilia” as an album is a great listen for those who like a fantastical escape and emotion from their music. From Bjork, it’s not her best album, but the experience is worth it.

3.5 stars.

This review was originally featured in The Commonwealth Times.

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