What can be said about Björk? Either she’s a genius or she’s crazy. Maybe both. She has most definitely spent years proving both. Her latest offering, Biophilia, is quite unique in that one of its formats is as the world’s first ‘app album’, in which a free Biophilia app can be purchased from the iTunes store with the individual tracks each purchased subsequently for $1.99 within the mother app. This makes for a more expensive way to enjoy the album but it proves to be truly original as it is a very interactive and entertaining experience.
As a whole, it is a complete understatement to simply say that Biophilia is chock full of mesmerizing soundscapes that are mostly beautiful but at times so odd that they border on annoying – true Björk fashion. But such is her entire musical career. From her first album Debut (not counting Björk, which she released in 1977 as somewhat of an Icelandic child star at twelve years old) in the early nineties all the way to her last album Volta in 2007, it has been her apparent mission to both wow and weird-out listeners.
Each song on Biophilia is engaging in its own way. The album is a good meld of classical and electronic elements. The song “Virus” demonstrates some interesting sounds and exhibits probably the most beautiful of Björk’s vocals. Other standout moments include the synthesizer on “Thunderbolt,” the song “Hollow” with its genuinely haunting aesthetic, the intense beat that kicks in during what is most likely the chorus section of “Sacrifice,” and the rave beat “Mutual Core” that happens at the 2:30 and 4:20 marks.
Biophilia is mesmerizing in a haunted house kind of way. It would be an amazing experience if released as purely instrumental album, but obviously wouldn’t be the same without Björk’s unique voice. It’s the kind of record one might want to listen to while sitting alone in a dark room with a candle lit. On the other hand, it’s full of things listeners will expect, dissonant chord progressions, electronic soundscapes, unintelligible vocal lines – the usual for Björk. But another constant for her is that on many levels it works and leaves the listener desiring more.