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Bjork – “Biophilia” Review

We do love Bjork here at HPM and her latest album “Biophilia” is another stunning, almost career spanning album taking bits and pieces from other albums and meshing them altogether.

Opener “Moon” see’s the return of Zeena Perkins’ harp for a beautifully layered track that starts off with a very simple melody and then extra layers of Verspertine-like muted percussion is added on with mergers of Medulla vocal collages. It’s a truly emotive piece but one that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album. That’s left more for “Thunder Bolt” with thick organs and pulsating Tesla coils. Biophilia is very much about atmosphere and depth. Avoiding any kind of hook whatsoever, the Tesla coil spits out arpeggios while Bjork becomes her own choir over the top. Utterly unique.

“Crystalline” see’s the invent of another beautiful instrument, the Gameleste. It’s jingling xylophonic bells are the beauty to the electronic harsh percussive beast of the beat. The two melt together perfectly as the only song with a specific verse / chorus structure. The final minute see’s the song breakout into a frenzy of breakbeat showdowns and this is the most energetic the album gets. “Cosmogony” takes the brass elements from Volta and Selma Songs and goes spacial with a wonderfully warm and cosy number full of hushed tones and heartbeats. It’s ethereal and mostly a calming piece as all the harshness of the brass is taken out and almost sounds like a thousand people humming. “Dark Matter” returns to the organ that almost sounds like a humming space probe. Bjork’s vocals are manipulated into a twisted mess and it’s really quite eerie. Think the organ version of “Cover Me” and you’re part way there. “Hollow” goes one step further with one of the most atmospherically disturbing tracks she’s created. A stabbing organ, reversed backing vocals and little regard for a melody at all, this is all about scaring ten barrels of juice out of you. After these two tracks, I now would like to start a petition to get Bjork to score a horror film.

“Virus” is possibly my favourite track on the album. Using the Gameleste and warm keyboards / steel drums the track weaves a heart wrenching and beautiful track. It’s full of quirky tuned percussive instruments but they all sounds sumptuous together. Again, although this track has a melody, its more about the arching emotion and atmosphere. “Sacrifice” makes this clear with an awesome futuristic sounding synth noise that also sounds medieval. It’s the sole instrument along with the vocals but it’s all that’s needed in what is a great song full of vocal layers and duelling melodies. “Mutual Core” is the other big hitter with drums and bass on the album. Based on the albums most prominent instrument, the organ, we are treated to some Homogenic-esque bass beats which soon break into their own grizzly euphoria as the backing vocals rise and rise and Bjork lets rip. The normal edition of the album closes with “Solstice” which after lots of digital trickery returns to a more acoustic root. In many ways it’s the typical minimal closer that Bjork likes to place at the end of her albums and this one feels almost freeform in its minimal nature. I felt like I needed a campfire while listening to it.

On the deluxe edition you are also treated to an extended version of Hollow, an equally eerie Dark Matter with a choir added on and the extra track “Nattura” which is a fantastic track I urge people to seek. It’s a massive drum solo with random squiggle riffs and Bjork ad-libbing over the top. There’s nothing like it on the album, nor has she made anything like it elsewhere – it’s more like her Sugarcubes days!

Biophilia is almost devoid of classification. I hate it when people just say the music is bonkers and mad. There is true genius here. Those going after melodies may be disappointed however as Biophilia is all about the overarching feeling. It’s strength lies in the fact that when the albums finished you feel you’ve been somewhere, felt something and want to feel it again. If that isn’t a work of art, I don’t want to go to the gallery.

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