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Björk - Utopia (Album Review)

Monday, 27 November 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

On ‘Utopia’, Björk’s ninth studio album, she has re-teamed with electronica producer Arca to deliver a collection of avant-garde sound happenings rich in storytelling, elaborate arrangements and majestic vocal blend.

It’s a fine follow-up to 2015’s ‘Vulnicura’ (their previous collaboration), which candidly detailed her split from the conceptual artist Matthew Barney.

The remarkable title track places Björk in a kind of hyper-real biome surrounded by genetically modified flora and fauna.

A 12-piece flute group deliver angular, elusive melodies that recall the minimalism of Steve Reich and - at a push - Olivier Messiaen, while the lyrics knit these themes together wonderfully. “Utopia / It isn't elsewhere,” she reassures us. “It’s here.” It's amazing, luminescent music.

But the sci-fi fairytale is short lived. Sue Me is a track of industrial arrangement - again with flute backing - that fumbles and growls its way through a difficult narrative that appears to cover Björk’s custody battles. It’s another remarkable song, but one that comes from a completely different place: one of heartache, ego and confusion.

Elsewhere, the album's opener, Arisen My Senses, and the single The Gate play with tone and texture in way that is hard to find elsewhere. After a strange hanging overture, the latter lapses into near-silence one minute in. It's an audacious move from an musician who - on paper at least - can still be put in the pop category.

Where 'Utopia' can fall flat is in its individual melodies. Over the years, Björk’s singing style has evolved from a kind of untethered mystical siren to freeform expressionism. One often feels like she is making up the melody as she goes along, which gives it the music a beguiling operatic quality.

When it works, it is truly compelling: original and seemingly spontaneous. When it doesn’t work, melodies become lost and forgettable. Then, it becomes surprisingly difficult to get lost in the reverie.

Bjork Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 27 2018 - LONDON Victoria Park
Wed June 20 2018 - ST AUSTELL Eden Project

Click here to compare & buy Bjork Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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