Mushrooms, clarinets and pulsating beats

Image for article titled'Fossora' Is Björk's most intoxicating - and inviting - album in years

photo: A small independent; Santiago Felipe/Redferns for ABA (Getty Images)

No matter how close Björk’s music has been labeled pop – and for at least 10 years it has strayed from that label with a seeming obstinacy – it moves on through the conceptual movements of a pop star. Each album represents its own formal era, with visual and musical aesthetics that remain consistent throughout release and touring cycles. Björk’s commitment to a vibe is practically unmatched… until she completely changes course.

How wonderful you podcast sound symbolism examined, each album is a response to, and often a refutation of, what came before. 1993 debut was largely co-produced with Nellee Hooper, so 1995 post was a “promiscuous” affair, crammed with collaborators. post was a cosmopolitan and extrovert portrait of the London period, i.e. the 1997s homogeneous was recorded in Spain in virtual isolation. homogeneous was a sparse attack of strings and distorted, “Vulcan” beats, so 2001 Vespertine was warmed up with the sort of laptop IDM that would sometimes fold upwards of a hundred tracks into a single song, often with a pinprick percussion approach. And on and on. It’s a sort of whisper-quiet approach to breaking convention that keeps Björk truly avant-garde and infuses every album with urgency – every time This Björk has to say now.

One convention she doesn’t seem willing to deviate from is the reduced sense of melody in what she sings. It’s not that she’s atonal per se – her music has stayed a lot musical-but since 2011 biophilia, She has moved away from the very concept of a hook. The supposed center of their work has become more difficult, less user-friendly. Her current music is less hummable than her earlier work. It seems to be there to be admired, like a couture dress in a museum exhibit, and not loved, like a comfy sweater in one’s personal wardrobe. As someone who has long understood Bjork‘s ability to melody, I found this twist alienating. she drops you off in these uncharted musical landscapes and goes about her business, absentmindedly humming a few notes over and over as she prunes the local flora.

bjork: atopos

But these unconventional anti-catchy tunes aren’t excuses when Björk sings in lead Fossora Single “Atopos”, not to connect? Her 10th album is no more “catchy” than 2015 vulnicura or 2017s utopia, and yet, in my view, it’s their most inviting record in years. I haven’t enjoyed a Björk album like this since Vespertine. This might have something to do with how much I enjoyed her podcast, where she generously shares her motivation for each project and guides people rationally through the project. she isas always, prone to outlandish metaphors (in an upcoming episode she compares utopia to a baby albino giraffe), but the overall effect is simple. For someone whose sounds are often alien in the most exciting sense, someone who’s been labeled an extraterrestrial himself, Björk is able to be refreshingly down-to-earth.

Soh is Fossoraher self-proclaimed “mushroom album.” The flute to the front utopia was full of air, intentionally slightly on the bottom end, but Fossora is a booming beast, thanks to the use of a bevy of bass clarinets and pounding bass, assisted by Indonesian duo gabber modus operandi. The relatively sparse but massive production – a direct sonic confrontation – is reminiscent of homogeneousbut there’s a much more pronounced sense of groove Fossora. Whereas homogeneous amazes in its contrasts (huge, jagged beats chafing classical-sounding strings), FossoraThe connectedness of is his point. And while the clarinet/gabber beats form the backbone of the sound, Fossora venture in too mark-ish vocalization, and it even takes off to flap around a bit on “Allow,” a track it was originally intended for utopia. Björk generally sticks to the task she came up with herself, but she gives herself enough room for general björkiness.

In the press for FossoraBjork made it clear that she is more enchanted with mycelium than psilocybin, and yet many of the tracks here are actually trippy. The clarinets are almost slapstick sensitivity to the tracks they appear on. There’s an oddity in the air, an unsettling feeling that things might go wrong (during the bridge of “Atopos”, a mild rumble Sounds like an improperly grounded speaker). A trope Björk has returned to consistently throughout her solo career is a growing song structure that erupts in a sonic tantrum at the end of a track. She employed this in “Hyper Ballad”, Volta‘s “Wanderlust” and biophiliais “Crystal”. It happens about half a dozen times Fossoraand each time these songs turn into gabber techno doubles Over time, their realities take a hard left turn. It’s like the mushrooms have hit and things, while still recognizable, are clearly not the same. The last minute of the title track finds several Björk voices in various states of distortion and harmony, and is, as calculated, entirely transcendent. With its chilling foghorn “Victimhood,” perhaps Bjork’s final testimony about the breakup of their marriage (which she explored at length and with self-pity). vulnicura) finds her willing to fight her way through the darkness instead of running from it—exactly what you should do to avoid a bad trip.

EEven the off-the-cuff stuff works—the jangly paean to her mother, “Ancestress,” is moving without being maudlin. “Ovule” spins a couple of records – horns, beats, Björk’s voice – that only occasionally seem to line up, but their out-of-sync is just as alluring.

Bjork: Ancestor

Rregarding that voice, what Björk does with it Fossora no longer seems to be at odds with musicality. she stays prone to melodic ruts in which she repeats a handful of notes over and over until she selects another handful of notes to repeat over and over. It is quite significant that guest singers Emilie Nicolas and SIncrease erpentwithfeet to Allow or Fungal City the vocals by just singing what Björk is doing with a little more music in their voices. But practically everywhere Fossoraher voice can be interpreted as another layer of intoxicating sound design—a componentnot the main attraction.

Accept it as such requires a realignment of one’s senses, a genuine willingness to take this music for what it is and not what a listener believes based on history and the way pop works should be. IPop has long had a focus on the voice, but Björk’s recent work stands out Fossora, argues that it need not be. It democratizes. As a writer, so much of what is on her records is her own, and like the mycelium she raves about, it’s all connected anyway. Fossora is her most succinct illustration of this concept to date. Mushrooms, clarinets and pulsating beats

Adam Bradshaw

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