Through many kinds of sounds, styles and substance, Björk has always supported a poignant affection of splendid music. For practically twenty years the Icelandic musician has stepped out of her skin, time after time, to craft some of the better albums of these decades. Post and Vespertine nestle within the realm of masterpiece territory and much of her music prevails on extraordinary vocal ability and pure heart and spirit. Most recently Volta left much to be desired; however, Björk comes back with Biophilia: her terrific return to form.
Fortunately, the music continues to step ahead with more than just a forward-thinking method of release. Although this album was intended as music to be used partly as an application on a tablet, Björk did once make albums that were subdued and discreet in supplementary parts that shined with colorful palettes of sounds with songs like “Come to Me” and/or “Isobel,” for example. Opportunely, Biophilia takes the music and encompasses a wide array of sounds that compliment Björk’s spectacular voice. On “Virus” she compares her craving for her lover to that of a host and its accompanying parasite and how they are intertwined together, bound by love. The lulling and gentle keyboard refrain is supported by chiming percussion and electronically-infused beats as Björk sings “The perfect match, you and me, I adapt, contagious. You open up, say welcome.” The concept is as endearing as her lullaby-like ballad and its adoring music displaying a strong sense of focus.
Whereas Volta featured some defining achievements like “Earth Intruders” and its seamless shake and groove, the walls were stretched so thin that even the most complex songs were too much to take for the most die-hard fans. Björk was always about changing the scene and as much as Volta tried to defy, it mostly blindsided with difficult mixtures. Now, “Moon” opens with a Joanna Newsom-like arrangement that is light on electronics and heavy on harp and string exposure, and later on “Dark Matter,” the music is both dissonant and harshly minor. The latter finds Björk reveling in cluster chords that both entice and obstruct the light of the melody: there’s a dark matter embedded deep in the chords and Björk adds spectral touches with choral layers reminiscent of the ones found on Medúlla. The organ-tinged sounds of “Mutual Core” reveal a sparse composition at first, before swelling into a gradual discourse of beats behind Björk’s timely vocals. On Biophilia the music is able to freely travel throughout the album’s ten songs thus revealing a relaxed, even-keeled segue of music.
There was never a moment where people doubted Björk and her skilful merits – it’s always been remarkably clear how magical her music is – but after pouring out albums of tremendous music, Biophilia continues to offer more dramatically dazzling moments. On “Crystalline” she features a slashing melody that displays the range of her voice in fantastic fashion and the ensuing “Cosmonogy” at first sounds like a classical excerpt from something out of Wagner’s book. Cosmonogy refers to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and Björk sings about her own take on the existence of the universe with soaring harmonies and towering, ominous chords of lush instrumentation.
It certainly feels trite, in this day and age, to refer to anything as a return to form. Music is so subjective in its pure aesthetic form that whose form is anything supposed to return to? In the end, there’s still a great expectation artists like Björk have learned to come by and whether it’s advancement in art, release style or evidently great music, Biophilia is an excellent addition to her glorious discography.