Björk has created something in her newest album, “Biophilia,” released on Oct.10, that may be the next step in the evolution of how one experiences music.
Fusing technology and melody together into an innovated multimedia project, “Biophilia” is an album that can be listened to, watched … and played with.
Combining her talents with the creativity of Apple, Inc., “Biophilia,” which was partly composed on an iPad, is the world’s first “app album,” with each song having a corresponding app that allows users to experience all 10 tracks differently.
Björk is known for her unconventional style, making it hard to pin an exact genre on her beyond “experimental.” Her 2004 album, “Medulla,” for example, was almost entirely a cappella, constructed with human vocals. It went on to earn her two Grammy nominations.
Rather than use conventional instruments, Björk would sooner take the organic drum of a heartbeat, the electric shock of a thunderstorm, the industrial grinding of factories and the silent sighs of waves, then mix them together like different colors of paint to create a brilliantly designed audio landscape. With “Biophilia” you can hear, see, touch and become a part of the musical portrait Björk has created.
Material for the album was first released during the Manchester International Festival in England between June 27 and July 16, 2011. To produce some of the sounds for the songs, unique instruments were specifically created for the performance. There was a tesla coil, a bespoke pipe organ that accepts digital information, and if that wasn’t enough, Björk even bent the laws of physics to her creative whim, using a pendulum that harnesses the earth’s gravitational pull to create musical patterns. After all, why play the guitar or the drums when you can just use the entire planet as a musical instrument?
The album itself, which is available both as a standard CD release and as individual apps, is a melodic, electronic, galactic symphony of 10 tracks, whose names and themes deal with terrestrial and astronomical phenomena. Their corresponding iPad apps are an extension of their stories, letting you manipulate various elements of the song using visuals.
For example, in “Crystalline’s” app, you guide crystals through tunnels in a song about structure, tweaking the song along the way as minimalistic, electronic xylophone-like beats guide you.
“Thunderbolt” allows you to play with thunder to deep, synthetic tones. The songs become more than mere tracks — they are a technological and artistic innovation as the distinction between sight and sound and touch is blurred, if not torn down completely.
Even without the apps, the songs invoke cosmic imagery related to their themes. In “Dark Matter,” tense, electronic notes seemingly whisper from the shadows while Björk sings in distorted gibberish; as the dark matter phenomena is still yet unexplainable, so too is the song, making one think of the possibilities lurking within the void of space.
In “Solstice,” Björk lightly plucks at a shamisen while comparing the gravitational effects on celestial bodies and on human beings, singing “The earth (like the heart) slopes in its seat, and like that it travels along an elliptical path, drawn into the darkness,” only to remember that “you are a light bearer, receiving radiance from others.”
Whereas in “Mutual Core,” the penultimate track about eruptions and earthquakes with a reverberating beat, Björk belts out how “I shuffle around the tectonic plates in my chest.” Björk’s anthropomorphization of the physical universe leads one to recall “Oceania” from “Medulla,” and it’s that kind of lyrical content that showcases her expansive imagination and talent.
But despite all the beautiful audio-visual experimentation and technological creations, the most powerful, energetic, resonating instrument is, as always, Björk herself. Her powerful vocal delivery rips through time and space, vibrating with emotion and dazzling like the brightest comet, adding the final element — her own raw humanity. That, when woven throughout the scientific orchestra that is “Biophila,” is what brings the album together.
Considering that the word “biophila” is defined as “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life,” Björk has successfully expressed such a sentiment by connecting her listeners through her revision of the listening experience.Contact Daniel Alvarez.