Bjork - Biophilia / Dirty Projectors & Bjork - Mount Wittenberg Orca
Embracing innovative on niche experimental curio by a huge artist
(One Little Indian/Domino)
It’s clear that Iceland’s premier musical export has no interest in writing another ‘Big Time Sensuality’ or ‘Violently Happy’ to please the casual listener, but these almost simultaneously released new albums demonstrate just how far off the track of the mainstream she’s travelled. In the nature of its release alone, her four years in the making comeback Biophilia betrays a fascination with new forms and technologies, having been partly recorded using an iPad and released in the hitherto unheard of ‘app album’ format.
The end result is a recording which often aims for the symphonic and ends up sounding decidedly intimate. Björk’s lack of fear when it comes to alienating the more easily-pleased of audiences is to be adored rather than pilloried, and the often frosty understatement of these works sounds glorious. For example the experimental chamber concerto come bed of glitching noise, ‘Hollow’, and ‘Mutual Core’, surely amongst the only songs ever to merge Warp-style ambient experimentalism with a burst of breakbeat.
As ever, though, the singer’s unique and distinctive voice is the glittering prize at the heart of this music, and all the meditations on nature or on the medium she inhabits sound almost redundant by comparison: this is not a pop album, but a niche experimental curio by a huge artist. In many ways Mount Wittenberg Orca, a bold but slightly repetitive experiment in vocal harmony composed by Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, is the better record for its rustic humanity.