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The sweet craziness of Björk

Björk
(Photo: Björk Facebook)
Björk

Jean-Claude Elias

The writer is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.

There is one aspect of Björk’s music that no one can deny: its instantly recognizable trademark sweet craziness which makes it attractive and different from all other acts. اضافة اعلان

Fossora, her latest album, released last September, is strongly built on fantasy, and talks of death, Earth, feminism, and hope.

In addition to Björk’s distinguishable singing style, which is certainly the main ingredient here, Fossora makes intensive and unusual use of instruments, like bass clarinet and cellos, performed like in modern, atonal classical compositions. It is hard to tell if these are always acoustic, natural instruments, or electronic sounds, especially the strings.

And this makes the entire sonic atmosphere rather strange, at least if you think these are pop songs — the pop qualifier just does not fit here. Experimental would be more like it.

The surreal art cover of the album gives a good idea of its musical contents. A substantial amount of studio work and post-production must have been involved in the making of the album and its 13 tracks: it is all very elaborate.

In Björk’s own words: “Each album always starts with a feeling that I try to shape into sound. This time around the feeling was landing on the earth and digging my feet into the ground. (…) Fossora is a word I made up, it is the feminine of fossore (digger, delver, ditcher), so in short it means ‘she who digs’ (into the ground).”

There are no easy-to-follow regular rhythms, beats or melodies, and, of course, no sing along songs here. The phrases are cut, scattered, with quickly changing motifs and patterns. This gives you the feeling that you are watching a strange, eerie, and futuristic movie, to which this is the matching soundtrack.

The complexity, the broken rhythms make the music very difficult for the musicians to interpret, and for the listeners to follow. At times, this “difficult” trait reminded me of the classical music of avant-garde classical composer Iannis Xenakis. Avant-garde pop is actually the qualifier I would keep if I had to use only one expression to describe Fossora.
From the first time you play it, you find Fossora very interesting to listen to, and then it keeps you focused and curious to hear more.
Björk sings with her known high-pitched, tone-perfect voice. Technically speaking, this is as outstanding as it can be. The control over the dynamics, quickly and accurately shifting from soft to loud, from sweet to strong, energetic and dramatic, are all perfectly executed by this singer who hails from Iceland. All the vocal parts, arrangements, and the complex harmonies are superb.

The album is very well produced and recorded. It brings with it uncommon musical creativity and originality, the kind that is rarely found these days. It is also brilliantly sung by Björk and skillfully interpreted by all the musicians and instrumentalists who participated in the project. In addition to saying it is avant-garde, I would also qualify it as intelligent music, even intellectual — meant here as a compliment.

From the first time you play it, you find Fossora very interesting to listen to, and then it keeps you focused and curious to hear more. This is how I felt when I discovered it.

The new album has already received excellent global reviews and ratings, with 97 percent of listeners saying that they like it. Just be sure to approach it with an open mind, for it is experimental, after all.

Would I like to play the album over and over again? I am not too sure, for, to truly appreciate such music, you would have to be in a special mood; it really depends on the moment you are living. This is true except perhaps for the very last track, titled Her Mother’s House, that I find particularly compelling and that is more easily playable than the rest of the album. The song carries emotion that the other 12 pieces just do not.

Judging by the number of plays shown on the Spotify audio streaming platform, however, it is not the most played song. It only got 370,000 plays, whereas the first track, Atopos, got 3 million and the title track Fossora 1 million.

Reminiscing about Björk’s early works, I found myself missing It’s Oh So Quiet, her song from 1995.


Jean-Claude Elias is a computer engineer and a classically trained pianist and guitarist. He has been regularly writing IT articles, reviewing music albums, and covering concerts for more than 30 years.


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