Science and Techno

Science-themed Biophilia is being marketed as the “future of music.” Recorded on an iPad, the album uses invented instruments and comes with interactive apps for every song. But the techno-gimmicks ultimately distract from the music itself — tracks which have Björk going back to basics and crafting soundscapes that, while gorgeous, aren’t anything we haven’t heard from the Icelandic singer before.
Each song on the album is related to a scientific concept (tectonic plates, viruses, moon phases), and they fit seamlessly, blending together in a parade of tinny electronics and flute sounds strongly reminiscent of 2001’s Vespertine.

Opener “Moon” sets the scene with harp-like strings (à la Joanna Newsom) and breathy vocals that repeat throughout the 10 tracks. These IDM influences continue on tracks like “Solstice” and “Cosmogony,” the latter of which comes off as a love ballad, with straightforward vocals that are a far cry from the shrieks and vocal acrobatics Björk is known for. Instead, we have quiet, layered voices combining over the eternal plinking.

“Sacrifice”’s dark, discordant synth makes it a highlight, but only “Crystalline” and “Mutual Core” evolve into a hard-edged electronic racket. These songs stand out from the mellow beauty of an album that is, despite its sci-fi theme, full of the tiny rhythms and minimalism we already know instead of the clanging invitations to a mysterious future we’d hoped for.