Review Summary: An experimental and abrasive record that remains beautiful in its magnitude.
It's the ideal word to describe this latest album from the Icelandic songstress, not only in terms of the music itself but in its delivery through the innovative iPad app. 'Biophilia' is a modern, innovative, boundary breaking album...no... multi-faceted project.
Then again, so far I've managed to avoid the extraneous application. Call me a traditionalist, but the music should speak for itself without the distraction of technological wizardry. With music as innovative as Bjork's, it certainly adds another dimension but it's not something that will catch on in future pop releases.
So what of the music itself? This is Bjork's ode to the earth, a romantic album in the most traditional sense with its focus on the awe-inspiring power of nature. The grand sense of scale is impressive, from the cosmos (Cosmogony), through tectonic plates (Mutual Core) down to the microscopic (Virus). It highlights the insignificance of humanity within the universe, yet the use of such imagery as representative of human emotion suggests grandeur and drama in our own personal worlds. Biophilia is a unique expression of nature, science and art in musical harmony.
The range of expression translates to the sonicscapes Bjork has developed - so unique she has produced new instruments for her sonic vision, like the gameleste. 'Biophilia', ever experimental, is further removed from her previous techno and jazz inspired albums. Such elements are saved for specific moments - the huge percussive explosion at the end of Crystalline that shatters through the musical textures; the industrial eruptions of Mutual Core that indicate the raw power of nature. As a whole, though, it's an incredibly intimate album, the production precisely crafted. Bjork's vocal, too, has a wide dynamic range stretching from gutteral outbursts to delicate melodic lines and otherwordly choruses. In Virus especially, her fragile voice matches the tinkling gameleste and obsessive dependancy presented in the lyrics. Then there's Dark Matter and Hollow at the centre of the album, two of the most frightening pieces of music in existence. Although Crystalline is the first single, it's Cosmogony that stands out with its celestial choir and penetrating sub-bass perfectly mirroring the extensive nature of Bjork's work.
Bjork's ambition has paid off, with an experimental and abrasive record that remains beautiful in its magnitude. Like the universe itself, Bjork continues to expand her talents in limitless, glorious fashion.