In her new album, Björk gives the overused word "heart" a new lease of life
In her new album, Björk gives the overused word "heart" a new lease of life with her distinctive tone. The Icelandic superstar sings "Ha-ah-whht" at one point with a soft susurration, as if the inflated organ were slowly deflating. Sometime later in the same song, it reappears, this time with a surge of blood-like rolling R's.
Similar vocal idiosyncrasies attempted by other singers may come out as affected or arrogant, like the Scrabble player who gets a quadruple word score for "quirky" because of the odd letter arrangement of the word. While Björk may fly over the stave like a set of monkey bars, her voice never sounds strained. She is natural when delivering her skewed wording. In other words, her singing comes straight from the gut.
We are informed on Fossora that she picked up the practice from her mother. In "Ancestress," she reflects on her mother's lullabies: "When I was a girl she sung for me/In falsetto lullabies with sincerity." One of two songs dedicated to her hippie homeopath mother, who passed away in 2018, this is a stirring orchestral tune with new-age wind-chime themes. Other songs draw their inspiration from themes like nature, love, and motherhood. The opening song "Atopos" sets the tone by stating that the only connection between these subjects is a common theme of images and melody.
Because Björk oversaw the album's creation from start to finish, she is sometimes compared to a film's director. Her rhapsodic imagination is tinged with sentimentality, which stands in sharp contrast to the discordant, avant-garde inspirations that punctuate her music.
So, Fossora's soundworld is robust, stark, and weighty; the quick, harsh beats of Indonesian pair Gabber Modus Operandi are fused with Björk's own brand of tectonic techno, and the album is adorned with the percussion and whimsical flourish of bass clarinets by Icelandic sextet Murmuri. Fossora, which she crafted in Iceland when she bonded with the country during her imprisonment, is fueled by an immense reservoir of energy that calls to mind the marching vigor of Volta or the more explosive sections of Biophilia. The album's title track, "Fossora," has staccato clarinets and oboe popping in and out of the bombardment of rhythms like woodwind whack-a-mole as Björk praises the feminine, fungal resilience at the core of this album ("'Fossora' is a feminization of the Latin word for "digger").
Although there isn't much new to hear, the relentless momentum of "Fossora," an album about reacquainting and reassuring oneself, is refreshing. The album has strong, mushroom-gabber beats, but if you've heard Pluto or Mutual Core, you won't be surprised. Also, pop has somewhat caught up with Björk; listeners brought up on Blackpink hyperpop might not
find "Fossora" all that unsettling. That's encouraging; maybe it's true that the world is finally ready for "matriarch music," as Björk said in a recent interview. According to her, she is prepared to take command and collect her rewards. And it seems she is in a position to start to do so.
(Listen to the album below)