Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Björk - Biophilia

Björk tends to reinvent herself with every album she creates.  You can flip through the Icelandic singer's discography and find that every record has a definite sound, style, and image.  Vespertine was the breezy snow flurry of 2001, with chimes and bells around every corner.  In 2004, Medúlla was her dark vocal centerpiece.  Each album created an easily recognizable era in her career, "Oh, that's Volta Björk!".  With that in mind, Biophilia continues the pattern.

Biophilia is very much a concept album.  The music has been infused with technology, the iPad in particular.  Every track on the album is connected to a corresponding app.  The apps take things one step further by introducing individual games and musical scores for each song.  It's definitely a sign of the times, but the technology aspect can be stripped away from Biophilia and there's still a piece of music that can hold its own.

One element of Biophilia, that is apparent from the first track, is the excess amount of empty space.  Every song has room to breathe.  It's very cosmic and alien-like at times. The production seems slightly skewed every so often, "Moon" being the biggest culprit, but overall it's fairly equal.  Musically, the album is somewhere between Vespertine and Volta.  There are harps and bells that make you think back to "Frosti", but there's also a few moments of in-your-face heavy hitting Björk.  You'll hear potential influences from the classical sounds of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" on "Cosmogony", while "Thunderbolt" is as eerie as a Charles Bernstein score.

While Biophilia is vastly innovative musically, melodically there seems to be a lack of structure.  Björk has always been abstract in at least one sense, but the melodies on this record are extremely loose and free flowing.  Those hoping to find easy sing-along tunes should look elsewhere.  On the other hand, the lack of a backbone in her melodies really captures the astrological theme of life that Biophilia was aiming for.

"Crystalline", the lead single, takes a different shape on the record.  The track has been remixed and altered quite heavily.  If you've heard the single version, then you may notice that something is off.  No more is the sudden explosion of percussion.  Instead, the drums gradually build into a climax.  The single edit packed more of a punch and really just felt cleaner.  I'm not sure what motivated the change, but it's an unsettling choice to anyone who grew to love the single as it used to be.

Whether you're on your first or tenth listen of the album, one song always stands out from the crowd.  "Mutual Core" starts with an organ and ends with a bang.  The pure energy during the final chorus is one of Biophilia's most refreshing surprises.  You may start to discover yourself returning to "Mutual Core" at an alarming rate, and that's perfectly understandable.

Like much of her work, Biophilia may be a hit or miss record for many.  If you loved the lyrical work of Post and Homogenic, then it's possible that you'll struggle with parts of this album.  Fans of Vespertine and Medúlla... rejoice.  Either way, you should definitely give the album at least one listen.  It's an interesting experience with many twists and turns.  One thing is certain, though.  Biophilia is, and can only be, Björk.


  1. So you're on the hit side? I absolutely love certain tracks on Biophilia, but not so much others... the same applies with all her previous albums, however.

    I guess experimentalism, while refreshing, can be overdone.

  2. @theVibeGirl

    I'm leaning more on the positive side of this album. I really got into it after a few listens. However, I do feel like there's a certain spark missing from Biophilia that's holding it back from reaching the level of Homogenic, which has always been my favorite.