It must be difficult being Björk Guðmundsdóttir. As one of the most individual and experimental performers of the last twenty years, each album delivered carries a certain amount of pressure as media and fans alike ask “What will she do next?”. This air of expectancy has proved to be a curse rather than a blessing in recent years because, whilst she never fails to sound hip and modern, this is frequently achieved at the expense of emotional reach. ‘Biophilia’ – despite its ominous concept album status – should satisfy those who value her voice and effervescence above her sense of adventure.
The early signs are promising. ‘Moon’ begins with Björk and a fixation with the harp but more pertinently she sounds young again. ‘Thunderbolt’ opts for her favoured electronica but it’s used sparingly and the female choir is the more memorable form of accompaniment. ‘Crystalline’ does dispense a greater weight of beats (including a drum and bass segment) but the important factor is that the tunes and hooklines are to the forefront but it’s on ‘Cosmogony’ where the revival is truly underway; against a backdrop of subtle horns, Björk’s performance is as heartfelt as it has ever been.
Naturally, the Icelandic maverick remembers she has to play the Icelandic maverick at times and it’s unlikely avant garde moments like ‘Hollow’ will be featuring on any future Best Of compilations. It is just a blip, however. ‘Virus’ overdoes the twinkly atmospherics but it’s still a fine song then near the end there’s ‘Mutual Core’, possibly the most confrontational moment on the record but the shuddering chorus turns out to be exciting rather than disturbing.
The overriding message from ‘Biophilia’ is that Björk shouldn’t feel the need to take the lead for others to follow. Instead, by concentrating on songwriting and emotion, she can achieve so much more. This approach has resulted in her producing her best work since 2001’s ‘Vespertine’.
Björk Official Site
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