After a 4-year studio hiatus, legendary Icelandic music icon Bjork returns with her seventh solo studio album, Biophilia. Combining the raw, organic creativity of Bjork’s music with cutting edge production techniques, the result is a sprawling creation with a range that extends from the cosmic to the carnal. Biophilia’s vision goes well beyond the music alone, into a revolutionary world of digital media where few artists have ever ventured- the ubiquitous app. With Biophilia, Bjork may no longer be tearing down the boundaries of modern music, but with its mesmerizing, organic overtones and hypnotic vocals, Bjork gives no indication that she’s resting on her laurels—she’s taken them off, planted them in the earth, and nurtured them into something truly incredible.
Biophilia itself is not merely a musical work, but rather a massive multimedia production of image and sound that reaches beyond the recording itself into a track-by-track collection of apps designed by Bjork herself. The inspiration behind the application aspect of the album stemmed from Bjork’s feelings that despite international acclaim and hordes of fans all across the globe, she has always held the meanings of her music to be intimate, personal aspects of herself. During the development of Biophilia, she chose the ever-popular app as a vehicle for her audiences to truly experience the album. Designed to provide visual, tactile ways for her audience to experience Biophilia’s music, each track possesses its own unique app, and all are remarkably different, running the gamut from song-themed games to tools that allow you to create your own music.
The “mother app”, “Cosmogony”, functions as a menu of sorts, introducing users to the sprawling, three dimensional “Biophilia Universe”, where listeners can travel to various regions and explore the album. The app for the album’s seventh track, “Virus”, an ode to a love so strong that it destroys the very thing it covets, challenges users to defend a cell from a viral onslaught-but success in doing so will stop the music. While Biophilia isn’t the world’s first “app album”, it certainly is on a level beyond what has come before.
The album’s third track, “Crystalline”, is a truly synesthetic anthem that portrays a musical odyssey only the likes of Bjork can create. The song reflects her quest to understand and empathize with the geological world and culminates in a thoroughly satisfying bout of newly-dubbed “breakcore”, an exhilarating offshoot of the Drum and Bass house genre.
Space and astronomy are not just visual elements in Biophilia’s various apps, but rather a major component of the music itself. “Moon”, Biophilia’s opening track, is a ballad of creation and rebirth in the spirit of the endless phases of the moon. Like much of Biophilia, the song rejects traditional forms of organization and rather than the archetypal verse and chorus structure, the song features a serpentine series of musical “cycles”. The flowing, melodious, harp peals and astral refrains truly prove Bjork’s power at creating works as visual as they are aural. The synesthetic, astronomical vibe of Moon is carried throughout the album in the haunting “Dark Matter”, and skeletal album closer “Solstice”.
Musically, Biophilia may not be the most complex or revolutionary of Bjork’s works, but it’s vision and ambition simply extend so far beyond the scope of what she has previously done, the album proves its worth and more.