CD review: Bjork’s ‘Biophilia’
Wed, Oct 12, 2011 (7:12 p.m.)
Björk’s latest project is an ambitious undertaking, even for her. Each of the 10 tracks on Biophilia has an accompanying iPad app featuring a game, animation and a remixing tool. It’s an intriguing concept—that an album is more than just a flat collection of music; it’s a mutable experience immersed in listener participation and three-dimensional, tactile experiences. But what if the music can’t stand on its own? Biophilia mostly does, thanks to meticulous arrangements and unexpected sound splashes. The music often highlights unorthodox instrumentation, like a Tesla coil or a “gameleste” (a custom gamelan/celeste hybrid), while such songs as “Virus” and “Thunderbolt” feature lovely, moving background harmonies. Harsh electronic shrapnel gives way to hymnal church organ on “Mutual Core,” while splatters of industrial noise alternate with gothic melodic chimes on “Sacrifice.” The single “Crystalline” is even better: It’s a mix of twinkling ice-crystal percussion, whooshing beats and a frantic breakbeat attack near the end. Fans of 2004’s a cappella-driven Medúlla or the minimalist soundscapes of 2001’s Vespertine will likely appreciate Biophilia the most; for others, the abstract structure and sparse atmospheres of the album might be tough to enjoy.